$10,000 Scavenger Hunt for Kids (giveaway too!)


Last month, I published a post letting you know all about Brain Chase.  In that post, I shared that Brain Chase is an exciting, summer adventure series for kids. It really is more than just a summer program. It is a learning challenge, a massive global treasure, a tool to prevent summer brain drain, personalized learning platform, and $10,000 scholarship!

I am beyond giddy to be able to give away a $199 registration to one very lucky reader. Keep on reading for instructions on how to enter. 

Watch this official Brain Chase trailer for the 2015 program called The Sunstone of Cortés. It provides a peek into this year’s animations and explains how the program works.


Brain Chase has also partnered with one of my favorite companies ever, Rosetta Stone, and all registrants will now have the opportunity to choose to participate in a language module as part of their online academic work. The language module, if selected, will replace the writing module. Students will be allowed to choose from 30+ languages when they register.


The Sunstone of Cortés trophy is now complete and here you can see a video of the Sunstone being made. It has mechanically rotating components that open to reveal the center compartment, where the key to retrieve the $10,000 prize will be hidden! Isn’t that pretty much one of the coolest things ever!


The Brain Chase Library Challenge. Throughout the month of May, Brain Chase will be hosting a 4-city Library Challenge. In each of the following cities, they will hide a voucher worth $1,000 in a local public library:

  • Salt Lake City (May 4)
  • Seattle (May 11)
  • Boston (May 18)
  • Orange County (June 1)

A unique riddle will lead adventurers to the exact location of the voucher and a complimentary Brain Chase registration.


There is also now a teacher referral reward program. Brain Chase is offering $15 to teachers for each of their students they refer to Brain Chase. Registrants who hear about Brain Chase from a teacher can simply enter that teacher’s name and school name at registration. You can download a flyer to pass around to students.

To sign up now, you can use my discount code (MILKANDCOOKIES15) to receive 15% off:

  • $169 for one child
  • $254 for two children
  • $339 for three children

This is a sponsored post written in partnership with Brain Chase and The Motherhood.

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.

Getting Creative With Harry Potter Jewelry


Have you ever heard of Pottermore? It is J.K. Rowling’s official Harry Potter hub. It is a really fun website for Harry Potter fans and one of the best things about it is that there is a truly authentic Sorting Hat test. After answering a series of questions about yourself, you’ll be sorted into your Hogwarts house based on your personality and interests. Not surprisingly, I am a Ravenclaw.

When I saw these adorable little owl charms on Oriental Trading, I had to have them. I just had to make myself a Ravenclaw necklace. I know I do not take advantage of my metal stamping set as often as I should, so I was eager to pull it off the shelf and get to work. Rather than re-invent the wheel, I am going to direct you to the best DIY tutorial that I have found. However, there are two things that I must point out when making stamped jewelry:

  1. Be sure to practice with your spacing. I do this by cutting out a piece of paper the same size as my metal circle, then coloring the tip of the metal letter stamp with pencil. Next you just press the tip onto the paper. This way you’ll be able to see exactly where your letter will end up and how big your letter will be in relation to the metal circle.
  2. Really whack the metal letter stamp with a mallet. Hold on to the stamp very securely and give it a couple really good whacks. Even better, have your strong husband do this. A stamp indent that takes me 8 whacks, only takes my husband one. Don’t make fun of me.


I think I may have went a bit crazy with ideas. The little owls are just so cute! Several years ago, washer necklaces became really popular and I am still in love with them. Here is a fantastic tutorial on how to make them.  Above is my Ravenclaw necklace with the house colors and another Oriental Trading owl charm.


Fandom necklaces are really easy to make and the possibilities are endless. You could even create a fake potion out of one of the mini bottle charms and combine it with an owl and a gem to make a cute necklace or charm bracelet. My bottle contains olive oil with a little bit of gold glitter. Be sure to glue the cork on if you are using any type of liquid.


Another charm set that I am positively in love with is the tea set. All of their charms are very high quality, yet very inexpensive. I am thinking about using one of the tea charms to make another Jane Austen stamped necklace like the one I gave away last year.  Jane Austen and tea…the perfect combination!

Thank you to my friends at Oriental Trading for sending me these charms for no charge!

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.

A Really Fun App From MARVEL’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #AvengersUnite #CollectiveBias


Are you as excited as we are about the new MARVEL’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron movie coming to theaters this weekend?

Thanks to the great team at Collective Bias, my family and I had the chance to load up on some fantastic MARVEL’S The Avengers goodies at Walmart. We also took the time to play with this nifty new Super Heroes Assemble app while we were in the store. And guess what…you don’t even have to wait until you are ready to shop to test out the app yourself. You can use it right on Walmart.com!

Just like our Hulk minifigure above, I am a sucker for Doritos, so of course, I had to grab some Captain America and Iron Man Doritos. Did you know that Iron Man is my second favorite superhero?


While you are walking around the store, keep your phone handy. Or better yet, let your kids be in charge of your phone. Open up the app and stop in front of all the MARVEL’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron merchandise that you can find. It is somewhat like a fun Walmart treasure hunt, since there are products all over the store…from bedding to toys, beverages to food.


When you locate a MARVEL’s The Avengers product, click DISCOVER and try to match up the sign to one of the photos in the app. Once it scans, it will unlock secret content in the app.

One of our favorite features of this app is SUIT UP, the one in which you can insert yourself into superhero photos, like this:


How cool is that! Download the free app in the iTunes store or Google Play store.


When we got home, my son ran off to dive into his new LEGO MARVEL’S The Avengers: Age of Ultron sets, I commandeered the minifigures for some photos, and my husband and I opened the Dr Pepper to see how many different character cans were in the case.

Hulk looks a little angry, like he is demanding a Dr Pepper.


At least I gave him a Dorito.

Which Avengers character is your favorite?

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.

How to Raise a Boy Who Loves to Read

How to Raise a Boy Who Loves to Read

A few years ago, a kid told my son that only geeks like books and that reading is stupid. Can you believe that! My son just laughed and replied with something along the lines of, “And that is why I am and always will be smarter than you.” It was snarky, but I was so proud of that comeback.

Did you know that 80% of families in the United States have not read a story together in the past year, and 42% of high school graduates will never read another book for the rest of their lives. Those really are heartbreaking statistics, but if you think those statistics are bad, they are even worse when you take girls out of the equation and tally up how much boys read.

Getting boys interested in books can be quite a challenge and one of the top questions that I receive from readers and friends is, “How did you get your son to enjoy reading so much?” Today, I am going to share some of my personal tips with you, along with the advice from some of my brilliant friends.

What I Did (and still do)

  • My son has not had a real bedtime since he was 6. He does have to go into his room at 8:30, but he can stay up as late as he wants reading.
  • Both my husband and I read to him every single day. I actually still read to him every day and he is 13.
  • There are cozy nooks all over the house, with certain themes of books and lots of pillows.
  • I leave stacks of books laying around the house, sometimes open to certain pages. This is known as strewing.
  • I made a big deal out of how special it is to just lay around the house in pajamas, reading books.
  • We take trips to the library once or twice a week.
  • To encourage a variety of books, before we got out of the car, I had my son choose a random Dewey decimal number and then we would go to aisle and select some books. He discovered some very interesting topics that he never would have dreamed of choosing on his own. This doesn’t work as well now that he practically has the system memorized.
  • I often read the first chapter or two of a new book out loud to him and then I would leave the book out and ignore it. He would usually finish it on his own.
  • I would show him the exciting trailer of a movie and then tell him we could watch the movie after we read the book. I still do this and we have a strict rule that if there is a book available, we must read the book before watching the movie.
  • We bought him a Kindle and loaded it up with eBooks.
  • We signed up for OysterBooks, which is like Netflix for books. If you sign up using my referral link, you’ll receive a $15 credit, plus I’ll get a free month!
  • We had a tournament of books.
  • Currently, my son and I often read the same book, at the same time, on our Kindles. We highly interesting sections and send quotes to each other via email. The Kindle makes it really easy to do so.
  • If there is an exact audio book available, sometimes we will listen to the audio as we read along in the book.


The two humongous bookshelves that my husband built for me. Unfortunately, they currently do not look this clean and organized. Seeing these old photos actually motivates me to reorganize them!

What Reading Has Done for My Son

I have learned, and seen first hand, that boys do tend to gravitate toward encyclopedia type books – and that is totally fine! I have never had issues getting my son to read non-fiction, it was fiction that he was so against for awhile. However, eventually, with my encouragement and the tips above, he learned to love fiction.

He became captivated by that tiny Indian in the mysterious cupboard; angered by the injustice poured out on the boys in Holes; heartbroken by the deaths of so many soldiers in The Red Badge of Courage; motivated to explore like the Wright Family, Professor Lidenbrock, and the Hobbits; and inspired by Tyce, the paralyzed boy in Robot Wars who doesn’t let anything hold him back. Reading fiction books with great characters has many benefits for children. Harry Potter taught loyalty and courage; Jotham taught devotion to Christ; the Pevensie siblings taught forgiveness and grace; Robin Hood taught the importance of standing up for those who cannot do it for themselves; and Mrs. Frisby taught sacrifice.

Expert Advice from My Dear Friends

I am an avid reader that is married to a nonreader… Sure my brilliant husband knows how to read, but he doesn’t enjoy it. My sons enjoyed the good no-twaddle literature I made them read with school, but they would never seek out these books in their free time.  In hopes of teaching my boys that reading is fun, I purchased and checked out horribly boy friendly books like Captain Underpants! Over time and with a token incentive system (one poker chip for 30 minutes of reading can be redeemed for 30 minutes of screen time). After having read the same books over and over, they became excited about finding new books at the library. They realized that a bag of books sure make the time pass quickly when you are driving. Or waiting for appointments. For tween boys, we loved any and all books by Max Elliott Anderson. Not too long of a book and action from page 1.

Marsha Drews

I made sure to read to my sons all the time and I kept fun, boy-friendly books around. Also, they earned their screen time by reading, and got double minutes if they read out loud to a younger child. We made frequent trips to the library so they could pick out fun books, too. Both of the boys still are avid readers.

Angela Capers

My advice is to let them read what they love as much as possible. If it’s a steady diet of Calvin and Hobbes, enjoy that season: laugh with them over the antics of the characters and take delight in the story line. If reading is joyful, they’ll grow up thinking it’s a good thing, even if they don’t become adults with a stack of books next to the bed.

Kendra Fletcher

We always used interest-based books. Once I had my three boys hooked on reading (and convinced that I was a book-choosing genius) they were open to all sorts of books.

Angela DeRossett

Ever since they were little, we have had Thursday night designated as book night. When they were smaller I would read to them. As they got older, and resistant to continuing the practice, I added things that appealed to them. For example, only on Thursdays do we do special things like eat s’mores, drink hot cocoa and watermelon punch, bring pillows and blankets to the couch, etc. so that they began to look forward to it. Also, they were not allowed to put their feet on or lounge on the furniture unless it was book night. It became a game to see how much of their body they could fit into their spot. This was a fun challenge for teenage boys! And of course, they always try to top each other with the adventure in their books. I’ve become used to losing the “amazing book” game since I always read non-fiction. It just can’t compare to knights, wars, Vikings, and pirates who dance in spandex.

Amy Bayliss

Our kids always have individual quiet time from 1-3pm and they can either sleep or read. They always choose to read. I require them to check out non-fiction and biography every time we go to the library in addition to their choices, and I try to help them find good series for themselves. We also have assigned reading that isn’t dry. It’s about variety and frequency. So they read daily, have variety, and I am also helping to make it easier for them to appreciate good books and have a good selection to keep encouraging reading. Books on tape are great too

Karin Taylor


My boys read 2 books simultaneously. 1 is free choice, within reason, but I’m pretty tolerant as long as it’s not, you know, equivalent to r-rated. The other is my choice. Each has a Kindle and a library of paper avail to them. Each has been pretty intrinsically motivated, so far.

Darcy Milder

We always have a stack of books within arm’s reach where ever we sit or stand in our house.  I made sure to have a huge collection and variety of high-interest books always available at home, and the boys could pick and choose from there. The boys always have a book along when we go somewhere, so they can fill the moments of downtime or waiting. In general, we don’t pack our family schedule too tightly and our homeschool schedule is quite relaxed, so the boys have plenty of downtime to read.

Heidi Scovel

Reading is a huge part of our home, and our school time.  I read aloud to them for a couple of hours at a time a couple times per week (nonfiction and novels), and we always have a lunch read-aloud going too.  My kids are 14 down to 7 and the oldest still loves when I read aloud.  We are a Montessori family, and so learning to read was all about phonics, hands-on activities, moveable alphabet, and other fun ways to break down words.  My youngest is the only one who doesn’t love reading, but he reads well and does so when it’s required (with minimal fuss, LOL).  I don’t make it a big deal, but the steady diet of really good literature in our home is very important.

Since the kids were little, we went to the library at least one time per week.  The are allowed 2 “junk books” and as many good quality books (nonfiction or fiction) as they want. It’s not unusual for us to have hundreds of library books in our book baskets in the living room.  I define junk books as anything pop-culture, or written as part of a formulaic series (think TV show books for preschoolers, or Diary of Wimpy Kid for older ones) or with a really poor writing style.  We talk about why it’s important to put healthy words and stories in our minds, as we put healthy things in our bodies. They sometimes are allowed junk food, so the same goes for junk books.  If it’s not a steady diet of those things, then we can enjoy the fluff on occasion.  I make sure I am always reading in front of them, or talking about books to them, and I stick to the same guidelines as they do.  Books have become such good friends to us, friends we share and will be able to reminisce about forever.

Christine Hiester

Don’t stress about it. Set them up to want to read. I talk to them about what I’m reading — and have forever. My oldest had a negative experience in first grade before we pulled him out to homeschool, and it totally soured him on reading. During that period afterwards, when he was anti-books, I read aloud often. Once he started asking me to read more and more, I actually started reading a bit less, stopping at cliff-hangers, and leaving the books where he’d be likely to pick them up to finish on his own. Now… I can’t get him to go to bed half the time because he always has his nose in a book.

Colleen Kessler

Skip school for a reading day: pizza, popcorn, pop, and a pile of great adventure books. Make it a special day full of treats and wonderful memories. I’ve yet to have a son who didn’t leap at the chance to avoid school in favor of pizza, popcorn, and pop.

Sara Dennis

Buy them books in their interest.  My boys are devouring Minecraft books right now.  Oh, and be willing to let them read comics.

Ticia Messing


We have books in every room here, so my boys are surrounded by them at all times. I also have a rule where the kids must go to bed by a certain time *but* they can stay up reading as late as they’d like.

 – Cait Fitz

Like most young boys, my son is very active. He will sit for long periods of time to build with LEGO or work on his whip weaving skills but he has always been a reluctant reader. I’ve found that reading together and listening to audio books helps us to connect with one another as well as inspire him to discover new worlds through quality literature.

Eva Varga

When they’re first learning, don’t force reading. If they want to go through their favorite story book and just tell it from the pictures, that’s perfectly fine! It can be a real struggle to sound out every word in a full length book, so building comprehension from the pictures is great too! We want our boys to love books, not loathe them because every time they grab a book we are expecting them to read every word every time. :) Also, finding a books based off of tv shows or movies that they know and love helps a lot. We have stacks of Frozen books and Jake and the Neverland Pirates.


My son reads for information — sports statistics, world record books, etc. He also loves to read COMICS — Peanuts, Garfield. He doesn’t enjoy so many traditional “Chapter books”, but I’m ok with that right now – because at least he is READING.

Mary Prather

Create a boy friendly environment. This means to respect the fact that because they are boys they will learn differently than girls and at a different rate. Don’t insist on the same boring readiness skills like coloring inside the lines that girls may tolerate. Embrace their need to move because boys will grow up to be men who love to read and will not always be wiggly.

Tina Robertson

It took a long time for me to get over the idea that the boys weren’t hard wired to sit completely still while listening to me read. I’ve learned to let the boys burn off their energy during story time. They’ve jumped on a mini-trampoline, played with Play-Dough, and splashed in the bathtub while listening to me read. I’m blessed that my husband loves to read, and he loves to read to our children. Over the years, he’s picked up much of the slack of nightly story times. The boys love it, and it offers them some one on one time with their dad.

Dianna Kennedy

To help my young boys develop a love of reading great books I started a book club.  Each month we read aloud a different book and then we met with a small group of friends to discuss the book and complete several related hands-on activities.  Through this process the books seemed to “come alive” for my guys and they understood how interesting and exciting books could be.  They continually say book club is one of their favorite activities.

Susan Williams

More Resources

This post is part of an iHomeschool Network linkup devoted to frequently asked questions. Visit the linkup landing page to view more expert advice on such topics as How Do I Know if My Child Is Learning?, How to Teach Middle School and High School Science, How to Handle Homeschooling Burn Out, and How to Homeschool and Still Have a Clean House! I hope you’ll be blessed by the tips you’ll receive from these posts, including mine!

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.

Traditional Logic and why you should teach it

I am sure that most of you who are reading this see the word logic and immediately think of Spock. After all, the majority of my readers are complete geeks. (You know you are and I say that in the most loving way possible.)


We’ve been learning traditional logic in our homeschool for several years now. It is one of my son’s favorite subjects. I think he aspires to become a Vulcan. One thing that I find myself saying a lot is, “That was very Vulcan of you.”

Why you should teach logic (my son helped me make this list!)

  • It literally makes your kids smarter. Research proves that studying the art of logic and critical thinking increases IQ.
  • It literally makes them feel smarter.
  • It helps you see through propaganda and manipulation, especially with TV commercials and political ads.
  • Many times in life, you need to make hard decisions and logic helps you make decisions by erasing any unnecessary factors.
  • Everyday problems are easier to figure out when you think through the reasons why it is a problem to begin with.
  • It teaches you how to reason and negotiate, and this is fun to do…especially with parents.
  • It helps you avoid traps and peer pressure.
  • Discussions are easier when you remove emotion and focus on facts.
  • Critical thinking helps to remove fear.
  • Learning how to think for yourself, instead of blindly accepting the ideas of other people, will help a child in adulthood.

What we are currently using for logic

Traditional Logic I: An Introduction to Formal Logic by Martin Cothran. This curriculum is published by Memoria Press. I shared a review last week of their Latin program. As I said, Memoria Press is an amazing company. They are a family-run, Christian company who emphasize logic, Latin, classical literature, and above all – simplicity. The products are easy to use and laid out in a way that brings simple joy to both the teacher and student.

This curriculum is designed for 7th grade and higher. There is also a level II for grades 8 and up. There are 4 components to the complete set and here is how you use them:


1. The instructional DVD. You can view a sample lesson. At the beginning of the week, you view the DVD lesson, taught by Martin Cothran.

2. The student text/workbook. This book reinforces what was taught in the DVD lesson. Watching the lesson and then reading the lesson will help your child master the material more efficiently. View a sample of the student text. There are 14 chapters altogether. Each chapter contains an introduction and 4 days of written exercises.

3. Quizzes and final exam. This book contains 13 quizzes and one final exam. The pages are perforated for easy removal.

4. Teacher’s workbook and test key. This book contains all of the answers to the workbook exercises and test pages.

The complete set is $75 and can be purchased at Memorial Press. You may be able to find new or used copies at Amazon too. I received a copy of this complete set for free in exchange for blogging my opinion of the program.

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.

An Exciting Adventure for Kids

Brain Chase logo

Most homeschooling families that I know on a personal level homeschool using a modified year-round schedule. This flexibility gives them the opportunity to homeschool whenever and wherever they like. In our house, we take the entire months of August and December off, and then take full weeks off throughout the year whenever we need a break or want to travel. Regardless of your homeschool schedule or philosophy, the numbers show that most homeschool families have a hard time 100% committing to a full homeschool schedule throughout the summer.

But what do you do when you want to give your kids some sort of education, but don’t want to homeschool like you would in the fall or winter? This is where Brain Chase can step in. When I first read about Brain Chase, my stomach literally did flip flops.

Let me mention right off the bat that your family can win $10,000 and a trip to dig up a real buried treasure! I bet that piqued your interest!

Sunstone of Cortes banner

Let me tell you exactly what Brain Chase is

  • 5-week online summer learning challenge for 2nd through 8th graders
  • A massive global treasure hunt powered by reading, writing and math
  • A learning adventure to prevent summer brain drain
  • A motivational tool for getting kids to do online academic work during the summer
  • A personalized learning platform
  • A hunt for a golden mechanical treasure
  • A $10,000 scholarship and trophy

Sounds exciting huh!

Brain Chase characters

Why is a program like Brain Chase good for kids?

  • Startling research shows that kids lose more ground academically over the summer than one might expect.
  • A 2011 RAND study found that by the end of summer, students perform, on average, one to two months behind where they left off in the spring.
  • 94% of parents agree that Brain Chase helped their children stay sharp over the summer. (From a survey of families who participated in the 2014 challenge.)

How exactly Brain Chase works


At 9 a.m. ET on Monday, June 22, 2015, Brain Chase: The Sunstone of Cortés begins. Adventurers log in to watch the first animated webisode and meet Mae Merriweather, the star of the show. Then they dive into their first week of learning challenges. A proprietary (patent pending) learning management system – the “Dashboard” – tracks each student’s progress as they journey through the 5-week challenge.

Each week the adventurers have four tasks: read for 15 minutes per day, write one journal entry, earn 10,000 points on Khan Academy, and do one bonus challenge. When they’re done, they unlock the next webisode, which contains hidden pictures, numbers, and riddles to help them guess the treasure’s location.

Mae Merriweather and her friends from the Grayson Academy of Antiquities are hot on the trail the mysterious Sunstone of Cortés. To find it, they travel to the Himalayas, dive off the coast of Greece, and solve riddles. But there is more to the quest — and treasure — than they realize.

The hunt for the Sunstone isn’t just fiction – there is a real golden Sunstone of Cortés and $10,000 buried somewhere on Earth. Every 24 hours, adventurers can log in to enter their guess of the treasure’s location. The first adventurer to guess the location within a two-mile radius travels with his/her family to the treasure site to claim the gold.


A few more Brain Chase tidbits

What is the age range of Brain Chase?
It’s mainly geared toward early readers through 8th graders. The technical rules are age 6-16.

How many participants joined in last year, and is there a cut-off for how many can sign up?
Basically, you want to know how many kids you’ll be competing against. Last summer Brain Chase had 500 participants. They have to limit enrollment due to order the hands-on materials in advance, and so they can’t exceed that number.

How does the reading work – is it online, and how is it tracked? Are the books classics?
Brain Chase uses a reading platform called myON, which has a library of more than 5,000 digital books. Kids can choose what they’d like to read, and myON can measure number of pages read, number of minutes of active reading, etc., to ensure students are completing their tasks.

How often can we guess the location of the treasure?
Kids get to guess the treasure’s location once every 24 hours. Once they drop a pin on the virtual map, a time counts down 24 hours until they can guess again. If they don’t guess within that 24-hour period, they lose their turn for that day, but they can guess again the next day.

How much to participate?

About $25 per week or $3.60 per day!

  • Using my discount code (MILKANDCOOKIES15) before April 15th:
    • $127 for one child
    • $212 for two children
    • $296 for three children
  • Using my discount code (MILKANDCOOKIES15) after April 15th:
    • $169 for one child
    • $254 for two children
    • $339 for three children

This is a sponsored post written in partnership with Brain Chase and The Motherhood.

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.