Tuesday, December 18, 2007

For homeschoolers (or wannabes) only

Recently I received the following article in a local homeschool e-list that I subscribe to. I thought it an excellent article and chuckled through much of it. I realized that I am still prone to worrying about the "gaps" too so I needed this.

I remember the gaps I felt moving from Maryland to Utah. Comparing my husband's education to mine has been, um, both entertaining and sobering. (He went to school part of the time in Germany. One of our differences was my strength in American history and his in European history. I'm catching up to him now thanks to homeschooling my children! They know a fair amount of both.)

I have included all of what I was emailed below, hence the very long post. With no quotation marks. I got rid of all the forwarded marks though! :-)

Do you worry sometimes about your kids having gaps in their education? Maybe this article will help allay your fears.

The Link Homeschool Newspaper
Mind The Gap: Watching For "Holes" in Your Child's Education By Diane Flynn Keith

A few years ago my family took a field trip to England. I didn't say "vacation." We didn't take a single vacation in all the years we homeschooled - but we took lots of "educational field trips." Calling it that helped to justify the cost.

One thing my sons found particularly amusing in London was the sign "Mind The Gap." It is somewhat synonymous with "Watch Your Step" in the U.S. You see it most often in subway stations when you must step from the train onto the station platform. You have to step across a gap or a divide, a hole or a space -hence, "Mind The Gap." Not only is the warning posted, you hear it in recorded messages announced through loudspeakers inside the trains and the station, "Mind The Gap."

The slogan has inspired those who see and hear it. Songs and video games contain references to "Mind the Gap." T-shirts are imprinted with "Mind the Gap" - and it's not just the tourists who wear them.

There was a movie made called "Mind The Gap" in 2004. I've never seen it, but the Internet Movie Data Base describes it this way, "Five seemingly unrelated people decide to take huge risks in their personal lives in an effort to find happiness." Hey! That description could apply to just about any group of homeschoolers I know.

Yet, happiness is elusive, and taking risks by rejecting conventional schooling can make one fearful. How many times have you heard homeschool parents, who have recently decided to step off the linear school train, anxiously say with a straight face, "I want to make sure there aren't any gaps in my child's education?"

Fear of gaps causes them to slavishly and unhappily adhere to a school model, scope-and-sequence curriculum that satisfies "national standards." They think it will ensure their children won't have any "holes" in their education. Or, they sign up with a charter school home study program believing that reporting to a teacher-facilitator every 20 days or so will guarantee their child has a "complete" education. They may have begun to get off the school train, but they are trapped in suspension over the gap, too fearful to land firmly at the homeschool station where educational freedom awaits.

Can following a curriculum guarantee there won't be gaps in a child's schooling? Is a transcript from a public charter school proof that there aren't any cracks in a child's education?

No! And if you think so, you're delusional! No one has a complete education. No one ever has, and no one ever will. You can learn some of the curriculum all of the time, and all of the curriculum some of the time, but you can't learn all of the curriculum all of the time!

You can't learn everything there is to know. And I certainly don't mean to imply that any "curriculum" is even worth knowing. As Albert Einstein said, "Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school."

I've noticed that the parents who are fixated on minding the gap in their child's education are usually relatively new to homeschooling.

Those that have been around a while seem reconciled to the fact that there are gaps in everyone's education. Compare your own education to anyone else's and you'll see that it's true.

Did you know that if you went to school in one state and your spouse went to school in another state, you didn't have the same history lessons? One of you has a "gap" in their education. It's true! I was conducting a workshop on homeschool resources at a Link Homeschool Conference and mentioned that fourth graders in California public schools study California history. Students learn about the California Missions and, for some reason, build sugar-cube facsimiles.

One mom interrupted and said, "I'm from Pennsylvania, and we studied Pennsylvania history and built sugar-cube steel mills." A dad spoke up, "I'm from Alaska and we built sugar-cube igloos." Someone else said, "We didn't study Missions either, we studied Egypt and made sugar-cube pyramids."

As you can see, it isn't studying history that matters, it's building something with sugar cubes that seems to be of universal importance across national curriculum standards for fourth graders.

If you keep thinking along these lines, you can see that the gaps in education from one person to the next are a social engineer's nightmare. If the majority of the population isn't indoctrinated with the same agenda and curriculum, it is difficult to predict and manage their behavior.

Let's imagine, for a moment, that a presidential proclamation decreed that every student must build a Mission out of sugar-cubes in the 4th grade. Now let's suppose those fourth-graders are all grown up. If you were to hand those adults a box of sugar cubes and ask them what they could do with it, what do you suppose would be their first answer? Duh, build a Mission? Would any of them first suggest adding a few drops of methyl salicylate to the cube and then hammering it in a darkened room to demonstrate triboluminescence? Heck, would any of them suggest using a sugar cube to sweeten their coffee or tea?

The point of standardized curriculum is to standardize people. They are much easier to manage and control if they think and act alike.

We hear a lot from politicians about closing educational achievement gaps. Depending on which
special interest group they are addressing, you'll hear rhetoric about closing the gender gap, racial gap, economic gap, and opportunity gap as they all (we are told) negatively impact the goal of public education. Lately, the government tells us that closing all of those gaps begins with preschool.

Our government isn't the first to suggest it. Political regimes (the Nazis and Communists, for example), have come and gone knowing the meaning of Proverbs 22:6: "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." The absorbent minds of young children are highly susceptible to government control.

Indoctrinate babies with the state pablum of social and political philosophy wrapped up in standardized curriculum and they will be loyal to their Government Nanny forever.

So, why are you minding the gap? What is it EXACTLY that you are afraid your child will miss? Reading? Writing? Arithmetic? Building Missions with sugar cubes? Face your fear. Give it a name. Make a list. Then really look at that list and determine what is most important in order to give your child the educational foundation that will allow him or her to become an autonomous, self-directed learner.

If that is your goal, following a curriculum and agenda created by the state (or anyone else) is counter-intuitive.

We'd probably all agree that learning to read is important. John Taylor Gatto, the author of "Dumbing Us Down," who taught in New York schools for 30 years, reports that it only takes 100 contact hours to teach a child to read. If that's true, is it necessary to have "reading" as a required subject for an hour a day, for 180 school days each year, for fourteen years, from preschool through high school? If not, why would you insist upon it in your homeschool?

We'd also concur that writing is an important skill to learn. In our society you must have the skill to communicate your thoughts legibly to someone else, in writing. The debate rages about what to teach first - printing or cursive. In 2003, I contacted Dr. Steve Graham of the University of Maryland, who has conducted research studies on handwriting, and he said there isn't any conclusive evidence that shows one style is preferable over the other, in terms of legibility and speed. If that's true, why do some homeschoolers -- who can opt out of school agenda -- insist on teaching both? Rather than learning two ways to write, it may be more productive to learn one way to write along with typing. Keyboarding will be a more useful secondary skill, overall. Your child is more likely to learn it quickly if you don't turn the activity into drudgery with compulsory, schoolish lessons.

In fact, take a page from Nicholas Negroponte's book. A former director of the MIT Media Library, he founded the non-profit organization, One Laptop Per Child (www.laptop.org). Their goal is to provide every child in the third world with the XO Laptop computer for free. Acknowledging that traditional schooling is too slow and ineffective, their mission statement
includes this:

"Any nation's most precious natural resource is its children. We believe the emerging world must leverage this resource by tapping into the children's innate capacities to learn, share, and create on their own. Our answer to that challenge is the XO laptop, a children's machine designed for 'learning learning.'"

In a recent interview on the 20/20 television program, Negroponte reported that children in emerging nations learn to use the computer with very little instruction. They aren't required to take endless lessons in computer classes. They are simply provided with a computer (the XO Laptop) and intuitively figure it out, or are mentored by friends who quickly show them how to use it. Negroponte claims it opens their world to unlimited knowledge while expanding their creative and problem-solving potential. The reporter who interviewed him double-checked with a professor who insisted hours of instruction and supervision should be given. I guess he's afraid of the potential this project has for informational gaps among the laptop learners.

Nevertheless, Negroponte says that children in the most remote regions of the world are being "given the opportunity to tap into their own potential, to be exposed to a whole world of ideas, and to contribute to a more productive and saner world community." If this free-style method of learning works so well for third-world children, perhaps more homeschoolers should try it. Abandon the school model.

Quit worrying about gaps and get on with the joy and adventure of learning.

As for arithmetic, the majority of people need to understand enough consumer math not to be cheated, fooled, or kept perpetually impoverished in a credit-card world. [PULL QUOTE BEGIN] In a consumer culture it's interesting that we don't think kids need lessons in how to spend money. It's mystifying (and oh-so-telling) that we don't give them lessons in how to manage money either. [PULL QUOTE END]

Once your child understands elementary math processes, then teach your kids to review and balance bank statements. Show them how to decipher financial statements. Learn to calculate compounded interest on credit card balances and loans. Show them how to invest their money. Take Robert Kiyosaki's advice. He's the author of "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" and encourages parents to give their children a financial education. Help them understand that it is far better to have your money work for you, then to have to work forever for money.

Next up, what would happen if your son or daughter never built a sugar-cube Mission or anything at all from sugar cubes? Would their lives and ability to learn be stunted? Of course not, that's ridiculous. Let go of your fear and quit minding the gap.

Homeschoolers have embraced the idea that school is not the only place where one can learn socialization skills. Perhaps more should question whether following schoolish curriculum is the only way to get a "complete" education.

As you disembark the linear school train, don't spend all of your time minding the gap. You may miss the wonderful sights, sounds, and learning opportunities that abound in the liberated and
abundant landscape of your homeschool destination.

Copyright, 2007, by Diane Flynn Keith. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Christmas Meme

I enjoyed this meme from Mrs. Darling at Dishpan Dribble so I'm doing it too!

1.What is your favorite Christmas carol? Silent Night

2.What is your favorite secular Christmas song? Jingle Bells, the Dashing Through the Snow version

3.What is your favorite Christmas movie? It's a Wonderful Life

4.What is your favorite Christmas memory growing up? Going caroling. We'd invite friends over to our home, head off to sing carols at various people's homes from our congregation, generally stay a few minutes in their homes eating their treats, gather them up to go with us to the next home, and eventually wind up back at our house for more treats and hot apple cider. My mother went all out on hot cider and some of our traditional Christmas goodies, and our friends brought a plate of their Christmas favorite treats to share.

5.Do you shop early or are you a late shopper? Both. Mostly late meaning after November 1. I can't keep a secret that long. Besides, the kids are usually with me! :-)

6.Is your tree real or artificial? Artificial but I'm getting itchy for a real tree again. I miss the smell, not the watering.

7.Do you still put tinsel on your tree? Not on the artificial one. We used to before the artificial tree.

8.Do you read the Christmas story every year on Christmas day? We generally read it and act it out on Christmas Eve.

9.Would you consider yourself to be a Grinch? No, but I wish I had a whole lot more money to spend!!!

10.Are you more like Scrooge or Father Christmas? Probably somewhere in between. I try very hard to get just the "right" thing. I try to buy things that will help my children develop themselves in some way. This year, I have banned anything noisy, i.e., guns of any sort. Why get something that will push all my buttons at once?! I believe Christmas gifts should invite the spirit of Christ into the home, not contention.

11.Do you make homemade gifts for friends and family? Not anymore.

12.What was the worst Christmas present you ever received? An R-rated DVD.

13.What was your favorite Christmas present ever? An engagement ring although I actually received it about a week before Christmas.

14.On the average how many presents do you buy for each of your kids? This varies according to cost, wishes, and what is needed/wanted and what seems most beneficial. There is usually one "big" thing. I don't really remember other years for sure, but it's probably somewhere around 3 gifts per child.

If you're reading this, I tag you! Leave a message so I can read yours!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Don't forget donations!

Today I nearly completed my annual task. Organizing and putting clothing and other things in bags to take to the Goodwill. Actually, I try to do it throughout the year, but it seems there is always more in December. Maybe that's because that's my last desperate attempt to make space and get a tax write off at the same time.

I know many other women have blogged about the benefits of donating items you have been collecting around the house. Here's another one. I seem to be into lists, so I will list why I like to donate goods to charitable organizations.

1) When my boys were little (like 1-2 years), all of their toys that we bought came from Goodwill. I still bless the person who donated Buzz Lightyear and Woody!

2) Shopping at Goodwill is really easy. When I pay such a small sum, I don't agonize over my choice. If my kids want something, it's no big deal to buy it.

3) Tax write off. There is almost nothing that pays off as much or as easily as charitable donations. It is totally amazing to me how much charities credit things we can't/don't use or want anymore. Forget garage sales. We had one of those once. Made about $75. Later, we gathered everything together and dropped off what they said was worth about $450. And I got rid of stuff I didn't know what to do with.

4) The warm fuzzy feeling that comes knowing I'm doing something good for others. Now to get the last bunch boxed up and sent over . . . .

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Christmas tidings

Are you ready for Christmas?

I never know the answer to that until it's over. Did I get the right gifts, was the food delicious, do my friends know I love them? Will it be okay that I didn't spend a thousand dollars on each child? Or even what I will spend? Will the gifts be practical or will they be laid aside soon (especially if I spent a lot for it?) Will the gifts help my children develop their talents and be enjoyable too?

This is the part of Christmas that I hate. Really hate. The worrying. The stewing. The fretting.

If the pressure wasn't on, if Santa Claus didn't exist. . . . No, I'm not a scrooge. Just a worry wart.

It's not about the money because I worried about getting just the right gift for my nephews long before I had any debts or house payments or such. I think it's that perfectionist streak getting the best of me. The thought that, "I can't do it right, so I'll have to do it perfectly." Unless my gift was the one shouted about from the housetops, it wasn't good enough.

That's where my real problem lies. Are my children underprivileged? Not on your life! They aren't spoiled either, tis true, but they get "enough". It's just that Christmastime is the only time we're expected to provide masterful gifts to everyone on the list, all at once.

So for this year, I'm going to imagine that it is enough. That they will be delighted with their gifts and that they will carry far more out of this season than what can be wrapped up in fancy paper. That's what I want most. That they learn a little more about "peace on earth, good will toward men." That they speak more kindly and help each other more. That they love life and learning. That they know we love them more than they can know but sense it anyway.

I've read a few more books

I've read a few more books. My latest is Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara. Since it is late and I'm itching to get to bed, I'm going to refer you to the review at Amazon.

This was really an excellent read! If you are at all interested in the Civil War and/or saw the movie Gettysburg, you must read this book! As usual, IMO it is much better than the movie. They really try to present it all in the movie, but that is impossible. There is a lot of probing and private thinking in the book that just doesn't all work in dialogue. Truly fascinating!

On the child front: I'm reading the Magic Tree House books aloud to my kids. Invariably, my older two are grabbing some to read on their own because I'm not going through them fast enough. Hooray!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Does this bring back memories?

I found a poem that I think most (okay, I think all) parents can relate to at least a little bit.

Mind Your Manners

Don't drum on the table.
Don't play with your food.
Don't talk while you're chewing;
it's terribly rude.

Don't leave the fridge open.
Don't slam the screen door.
Don't throw dirty laundry
all over the floor.

Don't fight with your brother.
Don't pull the cat's tail.
Don't open your big sister's personal mail.

Don't pester your parents.
Don't stick out your tongue.
Don't do what your parents did
when they were young.

(by Bruce Lansky in Rolling in the Aisles)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

And now I can go to bed

I just finished If You Want to Be Rich and Happy, Don't Go to School? by Robert T. Kiyosaki. My favorite part of the book was that he kept teaching and repeating the idea that the the universe only knows abundance. It is just us, the people (especially Westerners) who preach the idea of scarcity. When we change our mindset, we can literally revolutionize the world!

This book talks from the side of creating an educational system that will best foster our children's creativity and ingenuity in creating their best possible futures. A must read for every parent concerned about their children's education because every parent is their child's best, most influential teacher.

And now, I am not touching another book for at least two weeks! Unless it's to read to my kids!

Monday, October 15, 2007

3 key ingredients for creating wealth

As I mentioned before, I have been reading Robert Kiyosaki's book, If You Want to Be Rich & Happy, Don't Go to School. In it, he discusses how our educational system creates failures. He is a big proponent of becoming a "generalist" rather than a "specialist" because our world changes far too rapidly. We risk becoming obsolete if we don't continue to learn and grow and adapt with the times.

In the chapter on How to Become Wealthy on a Small Budget, he discusses three key ingredients for creating wealth. In his words, he learned them when he lost his business and his money in 1978.

1. He learned humility, committing himself to life-long learning.
2. He found out what it feels like to lose his spirit. He kept his knowledge, but he lost his spirit, his confidence in himself.
3. He learned the value of wealth. He learned when he was about 32 what it feels like to have no "cash flow". Because of it, he committed to building wealth instead of merely chasing the buck and spending the dough.

It's the second one that I learned after I was layed off several years ago. Kyosaki talks about how at one time, he got so low that he applied for government assistance. I remember going to file for unemployment and learning what I would have to do to get it, including standing in line, and waiting for my dole. I could not do it. I did not/could not do it.

To this day, I have never received unemployment check. I was entitled to it; I had worked a number of years for that employer, but my spirit could not endure it.

I am not judging anyone that does receive governmental aid. Instead, I am tremendously grateful that I did not have to take it. My spirit could not have endured it. (I am equally thankful that family stood by us when things did get tough enough to need help.)

I remember using WIC checks for food when I was pregnant with my boys. I felt humiliated even though I knew many, many people do that, especially for their first children. Conversely though, I remember how exhilarated I felt to know that I did not have to be on WIC for my next baby even though it would have been easier. Our budget was tight, but the jubiliation was real!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Birth order: What of it?

Have you ever heard people talking about how the birth order of your children makes a difference in how they learn? I know I have heard that many times in homeschooling circles!

As I read The Birth Order Book, by Dr. Kevin Leman, I started to chuckle and then to all-out laugh! Especially when I read the chapters on the "baby" of the family and the second-born girl in a family of two girls. Why? Because that was me from the tip of my toes to the end of my hair!

All I can say is that I am sooooo grateful that my "big sister" put up with me rather than killing me! I think I deserved killing at times. She never even tried to "lose" me on her way to somewhere that she wanted to go and had me trailing along behind.

Of course, I think it worked to her advantage that our mother was the first-born with a little sister that she had to share everything with, take to everything, etc. Big Sis really didn't have to share much, and I don't remember her babysitting me. When she was in 7th grade or so, we hit my mom with the desire for our own rooms. Mother didn't resist, and we had plenty of rooms for each of us to have our own.

Marriage wise? I did just fine, thank you very much. I married a first born. I hope my daughter does as well, but not my sons! Two "oldests" is tough, according to this book. The oldest children tend to be very goal directed and perfectionistic, a tough marriage. Hopefully they'll find last borns. Now, to give them their own rooms!!! (Working on that!)

One regret with this book is that Leman doesn't talk about twins very much at all. I was able to glean a few ideas though. Like the closer together the first and second children are, the harder the rivalry. And the second child tends to dethrone, or else go in the opposite direction, of the first born. Twins are in a tough spot there! The rivalry is intense, but at least in our case, the interests are similar.

Thankfully, our twins are both very concerned with fairness for both of them. And they are very concerned with the other's welfare. One thing Leman suggests time for first-born sons is time with the mother alone. I think that makes a difference for twins too.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Works for Me Wednesday

My What Works for Me: That'll Teach Them is a little late. It's only Friday, after all!

I stumbled across a wonderful way to "remind" the kids that things like teasing are not acceptable. It's push-ups. Whenever the kids don't pay attention or something else in taekwondo, they do push-ups. So I'm copying. The boys have to do push-ups whenever they tease (a big problem in our home lately!) I'm not sure it's achieving the desired end as quickly as I had hoped, but I think it's working.

A nice side benefit for them is that they are building up their strength. They can do a lot more push ups than they used to do. (I am increasing how many push-ups they have to do for each infraction. Ten push-ups don't faze them anymore.) If they argue, we tag on 10 more each time they resist. Today, "Dragon" raised his by arguing to 50 and then finally realized it would be to his benefit to get it done! Smart boy! "Monkey" doesn't have to do push-ups nearly as often anymore, and he never argues about it.

Rachel & Leah, again

After I finished the book by Orson Scott Card (below), I went back to the book of Genesis in the Old Testament and reread the portion about Rachel and Leah. Can I just say that a lot of literary license was taken? Especially since not much is said about their handmaids in the scriptures, but the book fully develops their characters as well! Made sense for an author to do it, and he did it very well, but it did make me chuckle. Card certainly wasn't tied down to any scriptural requirements with them!

Another book will be coming soon. I've almost finished The Birth Order Book, by Dr. Kevin Leman and another one will be done in the next week called If You Want to be Rich & Happy, Don't Go to School, by Robert T. Kiyosaki. (Of course I like the title of that one! I homeschool!!!)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

I didn't know this was the 6th in the series!

I just finished the first book in The Chronicles of Narnia, titled The Magician's Nephew, by C. S. Lewis. From Wikipedia, I learned that it was actually the 6th book written. By its "internal chronology", it is first. I totally enjoyed it. It set up The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe wonderfully and answered some questions I had while reading The Lion. . . .

The book raised another question though, like "What happened to the tree?" You'll have to read it to find out what tree! The answer is probably already there though. It is intimated that it will only last for a few hundred years to protect Narnia from evil. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe doesn't happen until quite a long time after The Magician's Nephew takes place.

More importantly, I discovered how to entice my sons into reading it. I put it on the coffee table after finishing it, exclaiming over it, and Dragon promptly picked it up. I think that book will stay very much in sight! Once he's done with it, I have no doubt my other son will be interested in it too. Right now, he is engrossed in the Tennis Shoes series.

P.S. I'm up to 36 books so far this year! Woot!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Rachel & Leah

Why do I read books half the night? So I don't take time away from homeschooling my children, of course. And still get to read all that I want. And be exhausted later or learn to power sleep, an art that I perfected years ago when I worked as a technical writer and kept an active social life on the side.

This time, it was the book Rachel & Leah, by Orson Scott Card. I have to admit that I have never read any of his sci-fi/fantasy books. We own them, of course. My husband enjoys them. I also periodically read his essays at hatrack.com which I enjoy. I'm just not terribly hip on fantasy. I have tried, but . . . .

My husband keeps telling me I pick each author's worst books to read. To which I wonder why we own them. :-) (It doesn't help that I've actually been so adverse to a few of them that I have literally thrown them away. With my hubby's permission so obviously he was not attached to them either.) Personally, I think it goes back to that Fitzgerald dude that I had to spend an unearthly amount of time teaching about his "wonderful" book (The Great Gatsby) that I didn't care for on the first reading. It didn't improve by having to dissect it. The student teacher doesn't get to pick the books though! :-( (I also tend to steer very far away from lengthy book series. I get bored with the story or the intensity or lack of such after the first book or two---three if the author is very good.)

I had a friend in 9th grade that kept funneling me a fantasy series which I loved though. If only I could remember what series it was! On the other hand, that was the year I read some Harlequins and was enthralled through at least the first two. That was also the year I discovered Gone With the Wind (quite on my own). So I had some taste anyway even if I did try the Harlequins briefly!

Back to Card's book. I loved Rachel and Leah. They are part of the Women of Genesis series, and I have loved each one of them. They are awesome! I love the insight and the total likelihood of the emotions and thoughts he writes about. I think that so many authors manhandle the women in the Bible. They had the same feelings, the same issues, as we do. We are not stick figures, who move around dumbly according to some preplanned program. We are women of free choice, even the most unthinking chooses to not think.

Why would those women be any different? This book is fiction, obviously because you cannot write a book length novel about any one person in the Bible without adding information or at least dialogue. I think it succeeds though, because it considers challenges and responses faced by other women and allows us to think about our own challenges and responses we make to them. And I love books that do that!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

A memoir of courage

I just finished the book, The Children of Willesden Lane; Beyond the Kindertransport: A Memoir of Music, Love, and Survival. In my opinion, this is an incredible book. I had never heard of it until the library began promoting it. The author, Mona Golabek, is a concert pianist and the daughter of the girl (Lisa Jura) memorialized in this book.

It opens with Lisa going to her final lesson from a master in Vienna. The opening chapter paints a stark reality as she learns what it is like to live with the Nazis as a Jew. Even more heart wrenching is her realization that she can no longer take piano lessons because the Nazis will not allow mingling of Jew and non-Jew. The reader also realizes that this is a girl with tremendous musical talent.

The next scene is one in which the Nazi soldiers wreak destruction in her own Jewish community, and her father is hurt. Her parents face the heartbreaking decision of having to choose which of their daughters they will send from Vienna. They only have one ticket on the Kindertransport and two daughters young enough to go. As she leaves, her mother holds onto her and encourages, no commands, her to hold onto her music, knowing it will be the only familiar thing to sustain her.

The book follows Lisa in her struggle in London, first to learn that the cousin who sponsored her coming cannot take care of her, and then to find a home that will allow her to remain with other children like her. The reader feels the terror and fear and finally realizes the joy she finds in her daily life. Throughout, she listens to her mother’s counsel and follows her music, finding solace and hope in it.

This book left me in tears many times and exulting over her successes in others. What a touching story of hope and love triumphing over fear!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


I have now made it to Isaiah in the KJV Old Testament! I am thrilled!!! I have read many of the individual books in the OT before and I know the stories and history covered in the Old Testament, but this is the first time (including seminary) that I am actually reading it cover to cover! At times, it has been hard going, but other times it has been tremendously fascinating!

It helps that my kids and I have been studying Ancient History in school for the last year. Things are coming together for me with both going at once. I believe another reason the OT has been so much easier to understand is because I am reading the Book of Mormon alongside it. Okay, so I've read the Book of Mormon several times since beginning the OT. It's a much easier read, but it brings the Holy Ghost in so that I understand the OT so much better!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Blessings of mothers

I just came across this blog entry devoted to mothers. It expresses my heart so please read it!

To the Tired Mama

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A book, a book!

I feel lost without a book! As I was putting away some of the 109 extra books sitting on the coffee table, I realized that it is time to do a general clean out. Surely we have some books that we don't need to keep!

I realized I am not currently reading a good story type of book and I'm feeling bereft. (How's that for a $10 word?) I am currently reading two heavier reads. One is the KJV Old Testament (in Proverbs), and the other is Making of America.

Speaking of the OT, I ran across an article in the Church News that talked about a scripture in 1 Chronicles 12:33. This chapter basically reviews David's military. In this verse, it says: "Of Zebulun, such as went forth to battle, expert in war, with all instruments of war, fifty thousand, which could keep rank: they were not of double heart."

I don't think I would have given this verse a second thought, but it's worth several. Am I one who can "keep rank" with the Lord's commands? Do I have a single-minded heart, devoted to following the Lord? Do I do what I'm supposed to and just what I'm required, or do I do the right things because my heart is with the Lord? I've had a complaining heart this morning, thinking what a thankless job Cub Committee Chairperson is and grousing about it to myself. This gave me pause to wonder what I would be thinking if I dedicated my service in Cub Scouts to the Lord and stopped getting ticked off at every little thing. It is easier to complain but not terribly productive and doesn't result in blessings to me or to anyone else!!! So onward to a new day and a happier attitude!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

It's 9:30 and I need to organize

It is 9:30 in the morning, and here I sit bleary-eyed in front of the computer. I have been up for at least 2 hours! I think I just need to start going (and start school!) Dragon has already completed his math and his book report (yahoo!) and Steven is telling stories. We have breakfasted as well. School should have formally started already, and it has not. We need to burn through that so I can figure out what I'm doing with the Wolves tonight. Dragon and Monkey are excited that the last of their Webelos friends is now in 11-year-old Scouts so they will see him tonight.

I think we will read Mathematicians Are People Too in school today. We will also read about the Cyclops in Greek Mythology. We are studying the early Greeks and Greek Mythology right now.

Need lots of math---drill, drill, drill. Perfectly boring stuff! I have always hated rote drill (never did it either but I still managed to get good grades---hated the math contests though 'cause I wasn't quick enough). The boys need drill more---not totally rote---doesn't connect as well. Monkey especially needs hands on so we keep using the manipulatives to bring the concepts home. Dragon grasps mathematical concepts a little faster, but I'm looking for speed in solving problems! Dog Lover understands it better and faster. I guess she is more attuned to math or else she listens as I teach Dragon and then Monkey the same concepts. At any rate, they're about at the point. Dragon and Monkey smoke her in History though. They spend their time with some sort of history/geography/atlas book in their hands.

Maybe today or tomorrow we'll go to Barnes and Noble. Both boys have gift cards to spend. Much as I would like them to buy some books online, I suspect they will need to look through the books. We have two more of the Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites coming (vol. 3 and 4), and they are excited about that! In a week or so, I'll be buying The Trumpet of the Swan for each of the boys for Language Arts. That's the next book they'll be studying. I eyed another bookcase yesterday---a whopping $15 at Staples, but I'm not sure where I'd put it. It's a how-shall-we-put-it?
inexpensive, frugal, never-say-cheap,
looking 2-shelfer so I don't want it in the front room! (For $15, the shelves will probably bow under the weight of the books in less than 6 months.) I'd love to take a wood-working class so I could build furniture! Along with that, I wish I had gone to beauty college and learned to cut hair before I was married. I thought about both of those, and did neither. I would hate being a beautician, but I can think of lots of things I'd rather do than spend $20 every month on one daughter's hair. The same $20 would probably cover my sons. My own? $50 or so. Do you know how many books I can buy for that?! (At least complete our Harry Potter collection (Vol. 5), and Prelude to Glory collection (vol. 1, 2, & 7) all hard bounds.

Now that I have digressed so far afield, I need to get going!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Thoughts on education

I have recently been thinking a great deal on the value of education, and the things I have gained because of my education. How's that for a general statement? Seriously, sometimes it is easy to equate "education" with "how much can I make" or "what kind of a job will it result in". Or sometimes it gets considered in light of the life that accompanies a college education, at least for those of us who attended when younger.

As I look back at my own formal schooling (notice I added "formal" because my education has only accelerated since leaving college), I can answer on all those levels. First, it allowed me to get a job paying triple the wages I had earned previously. Second, it gave me a great deal of confidence, both because I had done something many other young women did not do, and also because of the experiences I was blessed with.

Now that I am one of those "boring" (I hope not) stay-at-home wives and mothers, it is easy to say, "Gee, what good was that education, with all its bumps and bruises as well as high points?"

Hmmm . . . . let me see if I can list some benefits.
First, I know I need to drink deeply from some of the best books. Long ago, I realized I would probably never read every classic ever written and I'm okay with that. At least, I'm okay with that as long as I continue to read and to learn that which is most important or that which I seem prompted to study.

Second, I have a yardstick gained by experience, teachings of excellent teachers, teachings from those I lack respect for (they taught me what to avoid by their example of what I didn't want to become!)

Third, I have a clue of what kind of resources are out there for my children, and I'm not afraid of them. One of the biggest rewards for me is to turn to one of my children for the answer to a question because I know he knows more about that particular subject than I do.

Fourth, I constantly wonder why people don't "get it", and then I realize that they don't read. Amazing!

Fifth, I can echo the hymn, I Stand All Amazed, as I realize the wonders of the universe, or the eccentricities of government, or the complexity of the human psyche. But again, I have to read and I have to dare to wonder. My education taught me that.

Do I make any money from my education? Not directly, at least not in the last 11 years. Hopefully I will never need to again. Will I choose to? Who knows?! Not in the near future!!! But on the other hand, there are many things that I do not have to pay others to teach my children because I have the knowledge and abilities already developed. I have the knowledge that I can save and skimp for those things that are most important when necessary. I have the skills to do that in better style too. When not necessary, I can still use those skills learned through the years of college to better our lives without necessarily requiring a bigger purse (although that certainly is nice and I enjoy having a bigger one!)

The last benefit of my education, both formal and informal, is that I also somehow gained the wisdom of understanding the long view, and that, I think, has made all the difference throughout my life. That can affect money and money's flow, but it has nothing to do with money. It affects decisions, and I think it's what we spend our lives learning.

Maybe there is one more benefit to my pursuing a formal "degree" earlier in my life. I don't feel apologetic about what I do now. I dang proud of what I am doing and proud of my husband for providing for our family. I am pleased with what I can do to contribute to his ability to provide. I wonder if that is the element lacking for so many women. I do not feel one whit behind my husband. He is what he is in large measure because of his efforts and the Lord's help, but I am just as certain that one major factor in his success has been me. And that pleases the Lord, I believe. I think that is as He meant it to be. I cannot fully develop my talents and abilities without my husband, just as he was not able to do so until I came into his life as his wife. Maybe that is part of what being interdependent is about. (That link is to a great article about marriage!)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Review for Meet Addy

I just read the book Meet Addy, and all (I think) of the follow-on books about Addy, from the American Girl collection. If they were collected under one cover, it would make a good 5th grade size of book. Published separately, of course, they net the publisher more money!

Even though that sounds pretty cynical (it was), the story is a good one. It's a happily-ever-after style story where everything works out in the end, but it does a decent job of portraying life and its challenges in the Civil War and post-war era for former black slaves. I highly recommend getting it from the library! Because they are short books, they shouldn't be too daunting for even the most reluctant readers.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Funny experience, tough day

I had a funny experience. My boys got the book Crane, by Jeff Stone, for their birthday, and I have been waiting for them to finish it before I read it. For some reason I got mixed up and picked up Snake instead. At the end of it, I was very frustrated because I had not learned anything new about the storyline! As I talked to my boys about it, it dawned on me that was not the book I intended to read. Major relief! The Crane was a much better book. I actually think it was better than Snake. So far, Snake has let me down the most because it didn't reveal much new. Necessary info, but a whole book for the ending?!

Red flag. Change of subject. Yesterday and today have been tough days. I don't know what is up, but my boys have definitely been on one. They don't want to do anything that they have to get done, and I'm about at the end of my rope with it all! They won't apply themselves to learning "hard" things, and I'm tired of trying new ways to approach it. It has been a not-to-repeat-week! Next week my folks will be here, and it will be good to have a change of pace. Thank goodness weeks like this don't happen all the time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Driveway done!

The driveway has been redone! I would probably hire the father part of the team again, but definitely not the son. The father made it right, and I suppose the driveway fix was worth it! I cannot move my car though. He came while I wasn't watching so it's stuck in the garage. For a mere $2000, he would redo the driveway. I'll pass, but I would consider using him if we ever do that.

He has built the curb in front of the garage up enough to stop all but the worst of flooding. In other words, all bets are off if a tornado comes into the area and the wind sweeps the rain in from the street. Sixty to 70 mph winds are not to be messed with! It would stop some of it, I think though. It should stop our typical downpours from coming in, though.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I'm ready to move on!

Hello! I think this week, or the first half of this week, will go down as "LeeAnn's Disasters". Hopefully it is done with and I have learned what I need to learn so I can move on!!! I am definitely ready to move on! I guess the blessing is that this too shall pass.

On the upside, we have resumed piano practicing. May's field trips as well as my draining energy wreaked havoc on our schedule. I am slowly coming back, I hope (one reason for the disasters was related to my seeming inability to make good decisions or at least take enough time to gather information). My latest was scheduling for a crappy driveway job that was not on the docket for a repair. True, it needed one but I never choose a contractor that fast! I know better. Now we have to get them to do a much better job than their initial attempt.)

A schedule of sorts is formulating although punctuated by rest periods for me. Dog Lover is enthused about reading aloud to me because she can get a free book at Barnes and Nobles if she reads 8 books. We also got the first set of Hooked on Phonics (for free!) and it got her going again. I think she has been surprised at how well she really can read. She also decided she was ready for another piano lesson, and that jump-started the piano. My boys are excited about the B&N reading program for the same reason.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Book progress II

I'm nearly done with the book. It is totally awesome! I have finally found an author that thinks about and wonders about the same things I do and answers them with real evidence. To top it off, it works. The only problem is that I'll have to return it to my folks! I want one; it's only $35! Unfortunately, I'm still picking up books for next year's history lessons---we'll be studying the Medieval period and investigating William the Conqueror (or is that later this summer?) Whoops! It's later this summer. He belongs to the ancient world. Nevertheless, we'll be onto the medieval side of the house next year.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Notes on Joseph Smith

One of my favorite quotes is found on page 129 of Joseph Smith, Rough Stone Rolling. It is in a section titled, "Revelation", talking about how Joseph's revelations became accepted so quickly as religious canon. The author partially credits the voice in them, saying, "One rhetorical feature may partly account for their authority: the voice in them is purely God's. Joseph as a speaker is absent from the revelations, just as he is from the Book of Mormon." The author notes that, "When reprimands are handed out, he [Joseph] is likely to receive one."

The part I really enjoyed refers to a fallacy that we as humans forget is that God is God. The author says, "God pronounces what is and what will be without giving evidence. Hearers must decide to believe or not without reference to outside authority---common sense, science, the Bible, tradition, anything. The hearer faces the personage who speaks, free to hearken or turn away." The footnote to this statement said, "The voice is reminiscent of the distinction Soren Kierkegaard made in his essay on the difference between an apostle and a genius. 'An apostle has no other evidence than his own statement, and at most his willingness to suffer everything joyfully for the sake of that statement.' Kierkegaard, "Difference," 105."

Having recently read a former Mormon, now anti-Mormon and aetheist, pretend at a scholarly treatise demanding proof and Socratic reasoning for the Book of Mormon and even of Jesus Christ, this quotation was refreshing and reflected my feeling on the subject. God will never inflict his will upon us. Perhaps we would be more forced to accept Him if he did invoke Socratic reasoning. (Imagine---demanding that the Lord do things our way. :-) We in all our wisdom? Mankind {including women} have yet to go 20 years without war and intrigue in the world or our own neighborhoods! Laughable!) I don't believe he wants unthinking slaves, and he has promised to confirm his word to us.

Another quote that comes to mind is, "By their fruits, ye shall know them." That is a guiding light to me. Testimony is like that. (So is life.) Recently I heard someone refute claims by someone (they didn't say who) by saying, "Because of this, and this, and this, the Book of Mormon has to be true." Yes, but in spite of those proofs, "they" still didn't believe it. I don't think anyone ever built a lasting testimony on physical "proofs". Not because it can't be done, but because it isn't enough. There just has to be more. The Lord requires too much of someone who only holds physical "proofs". There must be a spiritual confirmation, which sometimes takes time to come, and often comes only after a "trial of faith" which allows the person time to see if the fruit is good.

Okay, there's my "rational", reasoned treatise. There is a reason I got my BS but went no further. I enjoy and appreciate others' work, but I hate thinking over and analyzing every word and trying to prove my objectivity. I am now going to debunk that hope of objectivity.

I was privileged to be born to a family with secure religious ties. I was taught in the "learning of my father," as Nephi says, and knew something of the "tender mercies of the Lord." I had the blessing of wonderful friends and an extended "ward" family in my church that was very important because of our distance to blood relatives. I had the opportunity to learn from knowledgeable and experienced ecclesiastic leaders who touched my life. Conversely, I was given obstacles and persecutions, the like of which I hope others do not have to endure. However, I have lived long enough now to know that others have endured like persecutions. (I am not equating them with being driven out of my home, although I was most grateful to leave Maryland. They were the kind calculated to make someone even slightly weak in their convictions conform to the world.) Most of those will never see print or oral stories from me. They were from a dark period that I care not to rehash. My previous post is not excepted. Since then, the darkness had gone. The only remnant was the memory of those days and the strength of character I had gained from them and the gratitude for every moment of light and joy that I had during that time.

Once all that was in the past, I remember vividly wondering if I really "knew" for myself that the things I believed and practiced were true. If it was worth it or if that was a "foolish imagination" as Laman and Lemuel put it. Now that the dark times were done, it was fearfully important to positively, unmistakably *know* that it had been worth the pain. I pled with the Lord for an unquestionable answer. I asked for something that I could not doubt myself on. I have the habit of making decisions and then doubting them. Commitment comes very hard to me. Just ask my husband!

Although I was struggling with this, I talked to no one. I did not want to be swayed by "reason" or sympathy either. I quietly pled with the Lord in my prayers about it. It wasn't that my life was lacking; it wasn't. In fact, it was rich. I wasn't rebelling or testing. It was just time for definite confirmation. I don't think I would have changed my life anyway; my way of life brought me happiness and peace. Then the miracle happened, and the Lord answered my prayer exactly. And I knew it was good. So I'm here as "proof" that sometimes we just have to say, "Lord, I don't understand, but I know you love me and want the best for me," just as Nephi did. I guess if that was good enough for a prophet, it is good enough for me. After all the reasoned arguments, He is God; I am not.

Change of goals

I am modifying my goal of reading a book a week. I might be able to do that, but there are several lengthier, heavier reads that I'd like to finish, and I am still responsible for my children's education!

Numerically, I haven't picked a goal but there are several books I need to/want to read. Right now I am reading Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, A cultural biography of Mormonism's founder, by Richard Lyman Bushman. What I really appreciate is the fact that he lets his readers know his bias, motivations, and sources. He holds no secrets, and he has studied volumes of materials in putting together his book.

I know that some have criticized his book for being too pro-Joseph Smith while others have criticized it for the opposite. Given that, I was optomistic that it would be reasonably objective without being an anti- piece of lit. (I have a serious disdain for anti-anything without a pro-something.) My cousin (an attorney and author) has also been involved in a massive research project regarding the prophet, Joseph Smith, so I am somewhat familiar with the quantity of scholarly material that is out there. This book has stayed true to the author's stated mission. He has not shyed away from topics nor does he feel he has to sum it up for his readers. I'm only to page 122, and I have learned much and gained much. I think he has actually attained a level of objectivity, which is pretty incredible given the subject.

I look forward to completing it. I have to have it read by July 4 so I can send it home with my folks. It's their book, and I have grown distrustful of the mails down in these parts. That gives me a chapter a day to read. Even with longer chapters, that's do-able.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Books, and lots of 'em

I have finished six books since last Friday. I am seriously grateful that I can, but I'm just as seriously ready to lay aside all books for awhile. At least the rest of the week. Yesterday, I reclaimed the living room, vacuumed it, dining room, kitchen, hallway, and bathroom. I also pulled off the register and air intake covers and vacuumed them out. No small task. The ones in the dining room were choked with dust, cobwebs, etc. I don't know that they have ever been cleaned! Their covers screw on and so they are a little tough to remove. I also pulled off the registers in the boys room and the bathroom.

After that, I changed all the sheets in the house and washed them and two blankets. Last thing I did was to sweep out under the boys' beds (fishing out all the dirty socks and so forth), and start the laundry. I got two loads hanging on the line last night. Since no rain was forecasted, I let them hang all night. Can I say I'm loving line dried clothes?! I got the rest of the laundry done today, and the last load is waiting to go outside.

My next major task is to clean out the office area. It shows that we were in and out most of last month with not much time home---just enough to mess up the house. I cannot find anything so it is time to clean! By Friday, I'm hoping to have gone through most of the house and cleaned and organized it. I have been dreading the office though. Too much stuff.

The family room is next. I have been dreading that too. I don't really know what to do with that room. Too many purposes for one small room. It's the dog's room, library, school room, TV room, file room, scrapbook room---all at once. It isn't that big!

By Monday, we will be back into school. We still have lots to cover before we call this year finished. Especially in history and math. The boys need to do much more writing too, but that is ongoing.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

The grass is greener. . .where?

In case I have any readers out there (and I doubt it 'cause I haven't told anyone about this blog), I have wondered for a long time why people always think it's better somewhere else. I grew up in Maryland and was a member of a "minority" religion. I was the only member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (sometimes called Mormons) in my school for most of my growing up years. It was tough. Sometimes it seemed that everyone else smoked, did drugs, and partied on the weekends. Occasionally my very "straightness" provoked them and I would have much more attention than I wanted---in those cases, very negative. Funny---I had very little to do with those kids, but they seemed to sometimes get very vexed with me. I didn't get made fun of, but sometimes it was worse. Like the time I told the substitute bus driver where the next stop was. Was it really worth threatening my life? Gee whiz! Generally, I was quiet; rather shy (okay in a suffocating shell); a good student (waffled between honor and merit roll); had good friends usually among people like the student body officers, cheerleaders, sports players, everyone I went to elementary school with; got along with my teachers; other kids who didn't smoke, drink, or do drugs; and was generally thankful for Mutual night when I could be surrounded by others with my values and standards.

When I was 14, my family moved to Utah. It was wonderful. It was such a relief to be surrounded by others with similar values and standards. My restricting shell melted off. Occasionally I had some culture shocks like actually going to school with Mormons in my ward (congregation), something that had rarely happened ever before. Seeing kids putting on two faces---one at school and one at church. Eventually I accepted that they chose to be that way and got on with my life.

Coming from my background, it was a real shock to me in high school when a neighbor friend started complaining to me that she just couldn't wait to get out of Utah and away from all the "hypocritical" Mormons who tried to "look" perfect but weren't. (The 2-faced ones I mentioned above didn't help the situation, but those weren't the ones she complained about.) Funny, I knew the same people and saw very human faces on each one of them. Most were trying to better themselves and sometimes fell flat on their faces (just like me), but they kept trying. She was right; some just put on an act, but most of the girls she talked about really were trying. Today I understand my friend lives outside of Utah, wishes she could come back, but can't because of consequences of choices she has made that are limiting her choices today. (No, she's not in jail or anything like that. She is a good citizen.) I hope her life improves. I really do. She is a nice girl.

One thing I have learned though is to always accept where I am and take advantage of it to grow and learn the most I can wherever I am. I have yet to live anywhere that I haven't met some wonderful people and made terrific friends. I remember going back to visit my home in Maryland just a year before I was married. I remember people as being more distant, not as welcoming. Folks in the grocery store don't smile at strangers. When I went back, I took on the attitude of the total touron. I smiled, greeted people, made conversations, and made friends. That shell really hurt my experience in Maryland because I was closed, too afraid to be hurt to take a chance.

By and large, do I think people in Utah are friendlier? Yes, most of them. I don't think they fear as much. I think people west of the Mississippi are friendlier, and Utahns take the cake for that. Maybe sometimes they get busy and don't get as involved in their neighborhoods (esp. those not in their church) as much as they could, but they try. Regardless of that, I have found that if I smile at people, most will smile back no matter where I am. I think we all want friends. I think I shocked some folks in Maryland when I actually stopped and chatted with them during my visit. It was alien to their experience, but not one objected. I guess for me it is true that the world reflects back to you what you show it.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Another book

I just finished another book that I started a couple of weeks ago called, "Fine Old High Priests: A Novel About Friendship, Family, & Faith", by Donald S. Smurthwaite. Read my other blog for my review.

BTW, the weather has cleared and it has become a very nice, pretty day.

A friend of mine mentioned her goal was to read a book a week. Hmmmm. By that measuring stick, how am I doing? We are at week 22, and I have read 17. Jim (my husband) has probably read 40. :-P I think he has always smoked my numbers; he keeps me stretching!

It feels like summer!

Somewhere, we have crossed into summertime. Not that you would know it by the weather. We have rain, rain, and more rain on the horizon. Now that we are done with our nature trips, it is hard to settle back into a "school" routine. Today is being very quiet. It started with a thunderstorm and rain pelting down and me remembering I didn't get the garbage out. Argh! The boys slept way in, which was nice. I had time to get my day together.

Dragon and Monkey just finished practicing the piano. I haven't sat down with either of them much in the last few weeks---Monkey occasionally but Dragon hasn't had a lesson in probably a month. Oops! They are both progressing, however, and Dragon has new things to work on now. Monkey got a bunch of new songs from his teacher; hopefully we will make a lot of progress this summer so he is in the next level by fall when his lessons resume. That shouldn't be hard to do.

Sister Dog Lover gave the boys a science kit so I think we'll be doing that some today. It's Friday---more of our "fun" day than studious. Then hopefully I will get my quilt square put together that is due tomorrow. I got it cut out this morning. The boys want to make their coonskin caps that they received too.

Dragon and Monkey received two more of the Five Ancestors books, and they have had their noses buried in them. Every so often, they'll read an excerpt aloud that they think is exceptionally good. Last night, I finally decided to read them to find out if they are any good. I mean, really, I'm buying the silly books. I ought to know if they're worth the read! So I binged it, starting about 10:30 last night and going to bed after finishing Book 3 at about 4:30 this morning. They're pretty good, but I think the author is milking the series for all it's worth! The story line in the first 3 is basically the same but follows the first 3 individuals who are named after the tiger, monkey, and snake. Each book adds a few details and then finishes with a totally new event. They have become masters of their "animal's" type of kung fu. They all split up after their "temple" is raided and the monks destroyed. The 4th book is about the crane. It is a new release so we'll probably wait to buy it until it comes out in paperback so they all match. Hopefully they won't wait too long, although they have definitely priced it much higher than the previous three! Obviously it is a popular series! :-)

Thursday, May 31, 2007

My new supplement regimen

For the last many years, I have struggled with serious hormonal and mood swings. One of the side effects that I think has become the main problem is that I struggle with constant anemia. I still remember vividly going to the hospital in Delta, Utah thinking I was having a heart attack and they could only find severe anemia. (A deep massage took care of the problem after more tests than I ever want to undergo again in my entire life!)

Finally, I relooked up PMDD which seems to be the challenge I contend with. I learned a number of things, but one of the things that resonated with me was total avoidance of dairy products. Mind you, that is not going to be easy but I have lost my taste for as much as I once ate. I have noticed that when my moods get the most difficult to control, I crave ice cream. The next day I hit rock bottom. (I usually eat it before bed.)

For the anemia, I am back on 4 capsules of white oak bark a day. It has worked for me in the past and has already helped now. I have been doing this for about 2 or 3 weeks. My cycle has become way too frequent for anyone to avoid anemia, and it literally stops it! Since pregnancy is not something I'm interested in now, total stoppage is just fine by me. Menopause looks good.

My third change is that I am taking 2 tsp. of cod liver oil a day. Incidentally, I'm giving it to my dog too, and he loves it! His coat was silky after about a week. I'm taking it for the Omega-3s.

My fourth change has been the one of longest duration. I discovered Glacial Milk's Noni at Sam's Club last fall and put Dog Lover and myself on it. It has the highest dosage of B vitamins that I have been able to find for a reasonable cost. Now all but Jim takes it, and even he takes it when he doesn't feel well. Dog Lover showed astounding improvement immediately in her hair and nails (most visible). She has never had strong nails---spoon nails were hers---and her hair was thin. Now I have to cut her nails, and she doesn't bite them. I can't rip them either. Her hair is much thicker and shinier too. None of us have gotten sick much since beginning that, and for that I am grateful. And no, I sell none of this. I don't buy it off their site either although that is an option. Our Sam's Club offers it as a Click 'n Pull item.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Nature and wildlife field trip

Today was a full day, and it was a good day! We left this morning for Predator World down in Branson at about 8:35 and got there at about 9:45. The homeschoolers group we were meeting was supposed to show at 10:30 so we were in plenty of time. Better early than worried about being late!

Predator World is not terribly large, but it is fascinating and different than anywhere else we have been. When we walked outside to see the lions, tigers, and wolves, we were amazed to see a man in the lion's den playing pattycake with him. Actually he was teasing him and slapping him with his own paw. Both were having a great time! When the handler got up and headed to the gate, the lion gamboled along beside him just like a big dog. He had such a sad look on his face when the man went through the gate, shutting it behind him. He cocked his head like, "Don't go."

Later we saw him tossing a ball to three tiger cubs playing in a pool. The same scene was reenacted there when he left. They followed him toward the gate too. They were in the same area though so they walked toward the white bengal in the area beside theirs and roared at him. The white bengal was the papa of the three cubs. The four exchanged what sounded like friendly roars (much quieter for one thing), and then the cubs walked into their den. One was trying to bite another's leg. Obviously the tease of the family! :-)

It was interesting to find out that their were no alpha males there. There were some in 2nd place, but the alpha was whatever human was in their area. The guide said they thrived on the attention and begged for more all the time. I couldn't help but think what a marvelous job that would be. Of course, there would be more than a few hazards to the job! The lion was a maneless male lion, and he was apparently the only one that had not been declawed and they are all well fed. Even so, by sheer weight and strength, any of those animals could do some damage!

Predator World also has a black bear and bengal tiger that share an area. The keepers figure that the bear either thinks he is a tiger or the tiger thinks he is a bear. They have lived together since they were 3 months old. Unless the animals have always been together, they do not have them share an area. For example, there are 3 areas for tigers (one for the white bengals, one for the orange bengal and bear, and one for the tiger cubs.) Then there are two areas for wolves. One for three that have been together since two of them were cubs, and one for a new wolf.

There are crocodiles, alligators, snakes, fish, and sharks also at Predator World. They have several tanks of various kinds of fish. The kids got to feed the sharks, turtles, and the various kinds of fish in another large tank. Many of the animals and reptiles are native to this area or nearby. I think all but the tigers probably are native to this country. There was a good variety; it gave us an appreciation for how many different kinds of animals are in this country!

When we were done at Predator World (about 2 - 2 1/2 hours later), we decided to head over to the Shephard of the Hills Conservation Center. It is a fish hatchery below the Table Rock Dam. Big dam! Hoover Dam is much larger, but this was big enough! The kids learned about the softshell turtle there and also got to see a video about the construction of the dam, narrated by the engineer of the project. There was a picture of the flood waters going over the top of the dam before it was finished. The contractor worked furiously between February and April and got a tremendous amount finished but was not able to complete the dam in time. The got footage of the "man-made" waterfall. It was spectacular!!! It was some weeks before the head engineer went back to the site. In his words, "Even this young engineer knew enough to guess how many rifles would be trained on him if he ventured among the native Ozarkians who had just been flooded out." The Appalachian folk had nothing on the Ozarkians! Apparently the Army Corps of Engineers added an additional dam to help with flood waters. The lake could rise enough to go right over the top before the new section was added.

The nature center at the base of the dam is also a very large fish hatchery, producing millions of trout. We learned that trout are not native to Missouri because the water is not cold enough. Because the "new" Table Rock Lake is more than 230 feet deep (I think), the water at the bottom is very cold; the sun doesn't penetrate it to warm it up. The dam generators pump it out to Taneycomo Lake (sp?) so that lake is excellent for trout. Thousands of people fish there. Because of the generators though, the eggs don't have a chance so they continue to spawn fish at the hatchery. In the wild, about 15% of the eggs hatch; at Shephard Hills, 80% do, so fishermen are blissfully happy.

Next, we drove over the dam, stopping after the new part of the dam to see it, and then driving over the main part. Never mind the thunder and lightning, the kids wanted to run down to see the dam up close and personal. After that, we went over to the visitors center to see their exhibits and video. They also had a nature trail (fully paved) that we hiked. Then we went out to the car, told it to go home, and it did (at least the GPS told us how to go which was good because I had no idea and no map!) I only said No! and did my own thing about 6 times. I have learned that the "easy" way is not usually the "best" or "fastest" way. So when I saw the sign for 65, I looped around to catch it.

We got home around 3:00 and found our house intact. No small feat considering that we had left Gideon loose in the house for the first time since he was a little puppy getting into the garbage. (I had taken the garbage out before we left this morning.) The doggy door was open so he could go outside, and all was well. Woohoo!!!!! Then tonight I completed something that I have dreamed of doing for probably 10 years! All in all, a very satisfying, blessed day!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mary, Martha, and Me

In this book, Mary, Martha, and Me: Seeking the One Thing that is Needful, Camille Fronk Olson explores the depth of the question of whose choice is better: Mary or Martha. She notes that Jesus does not say that Mary chose the better part, just that she chose a good part. Then he teaches her that "One thing is needful." He didn't devalue Martha's service but counseled her to put Himself first, and then all other things fall into place.

My sister-in-law recently blogged (under May Flowers) about her frustration at being at a preschool end-of-school-year party and having other moms basically put her down for working. I had to chuckle because I have felt what I believe to be the same emotion with people's response to my homeschooling. That was just a couple of days ago, and I picked up this book yesterday. It answers on many levels. Another thought Olson explored was that one person's choice or gift may not be another's, and yet we all contribute---so much that we will probably never realize in this life the impact for good we have had.

These are just two of the main ideas Olson discussed. There is so much more! Mary, Martha, and Me is definitely another 5 star read. I'll be reading it again. I need to be reminded of how much I depend on the Saviour and how much He loves us.

Letters to Emily

I just read the book Letters to Emily. (see sidebar for link) It is such a good book, full of sage advice, such as that which a parent or grandparent has to offer. The format follows events around an older man who has been diagnosed with Alzheimers. He has a grand-daughter that is literally his best friend. She isn't very old, and he is afraid she will remember him as the man that he will become because of the AD. To counteract that, he writes letters to Emily that are linked with poetry riddles so she will remember the man he was before the disease takes that side of him away. Along the way, the letters help his son and his wife who are soon to be divorced understand life a little better and their challenges. His advice to Emily is very timely for his son at the time he receives his copy of the poems.

This is a five-out-of-five-star book in my opinion. It did not take long to read it---maybe 4 hours. Although it is a thick paperback, it is a quick read. I had to read the ending before continuing very far in the book though. I had to make sure it wasn't a downer type of book. It isn't. I will definitely be reading it again soon.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Friday, we went to the Nature Center for a program on amphibians and reptiles. It was fascinating. While there, I saw a good friend and talked to her briefly about setting up a co-op. She was reticent until she found out I want a no-stress kind of co-op. Our kids our about the same ages, and our sons are great friends. Her youngest daughter is a friend of Dog Lover's too. I need to call and follow up, but I think this is going to be a good thing.

The kids started a journaling program with the Missouri Department of Conservation called Going Along with Lewis and Clark. (Missouri is very proud of its connection with the two explorers. I don't think you can graduate from high school here unless you know a lot about the Corps of Discovery. That's okay; I have two resident experts on the subject. Lately Monkey always has a book about them in hand.)

The assignment for this nature center was to describe a skunk for someone who had never seen it. They did okay with the assignment and then they all drew pictures of a skunk. Dragon's representation brought rave reviews. I felt badly for Monkey---his was a good drawing but didn't receive comment since the employee saw his *after* viewing Dragon's rendition. Dragon truly loves to draw, and he is pretty good at it too. They each received a pin with a skunk on it. There are 9 nature centers in Missouri, and each of them is participating in the program with a pin to be earned at each one. Since we only have until June 2, I don't think we'll be getting the grand prize (earnable only by completing all of them.) They'll have fun though! Dragon used his pin as a tie tac today for church.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

If life is a bowl of cherries, what am I doing in the pits? ---Erma Bombeck

Today was emotionally a totally rotten day. The absolutely *only* thing that saved it was a nice annual membership to the Discovery Center. We had sandwiches, juice, and cookies, and headed for the car. I grabbed a book, and we were on our way!

Upon entering, I noticed it was totally silent. Amazing! I cannot tell you how good that was for me. My kids lit into the archeological dig site (right at the beginning) and started to identify the rocks on the wall. I found a "rock" to the side and sat down and read several chapters of Remembering Wholeness. The kids quickly found their way to the computer right by me, and went through the program about fossils, how they are formed, etc. After sometime there, the boys tapped me and asked if they could go back to where the water was. I don't know what you call it, but the kids can play in water to their delight, blocking and unblocking water, learning about turbine engines, water wheels, etc. Dog Lover stayed at the fossil program for quite a lot longer with me contentedly reading. Finally she asked if she could go upstairs and I suggested going in with the boys first. I don't think they have ever spent so long in that one room before, because I always got bored first. I think it was about 2 hours later when we moved on. I need to remember to always bring a book for now on!

We left somewhere around 4:30 and stopped at a music store near there (my favorite one.) It has books of music and all sorts of instruments. I loved it. The boys were playing together on an electronic piano (a pretty nice one), and it sounded very good to me. I was riffling through the various books of music. I am thinking about taking over Monkey's piano lessons, and changing the style of books the boys are learning from. I think they are getting bored, and duets would be a great thing for them. John Thompson actually has some. I didn't know that. I'm thinking about using some of that music. Then maybe I'll use John Schaum for some more variety. There's a series of books the boys are already using that has a great selection of popular songs. I really liked the "expansion" that the John Thompson series has had. They have several books for different kinds of music: American, around the world, popular, etc. I want Jim to look through all of them to make sure I'm on the right track and then I think we'll switch next month. Monkey's teacher is taking the summer off so it's a good time to explore.

Tonight I went to the women's Relief Society Enrichment night. We had a workshop on make-up and hair, etc. and one on photography. They were both excellent. We finished the photography one with time to spare and so I went into the other one. I looked about how I felt. I'm not sure I even had makeup on! I think I put some on earlier today, but it doesn't do so well with tears flowing. And yes, it was that kind of day. Why do you think we went to the Discovery Center? We always go to the Discovery Center when I'm on too narrow a ledge, above a waterfall a long way down. Because the membership is already paid for, expense is not an issue.

I think I'll go eat a bowl of soup and go to bed so my tummy is full. Hopefully that will help me to be more emotionally up tomorrow. I believe a good day is coming my way.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

First day of student planners

Last night, I wrote up an agenda of schoolwork and chores for all my kids. I don't know as I will be doing it for Dog Lover all the time, but it was pretty successful for the boys. They checked everything off as they got it done, and turned in their work when it was all completed. I feel like I'm missing something though. Partly because I forgot scriptures, and they didn't remind me. It's the missing checkmark on their lists. Shame on me!

Dragon and Monkey have started the Zoology 1 (Apologia) book. They read page 1 of the Intro today. Not exactly heavy reading, but it's new to them to do it totally independently. They also had to "get" the idea of following their list so they didn't have conflicts over who got the book first or second for history and science. We only have one book for those two subjects so it's important that they don't try to do it at the same time.

We also have one piano so the children can't practice at the same time! Dog Lover was a little ticked that she had to wait for both of them to practice before she could! Actually, she didn't. Dragon wasn't finished with History, so she went in and practiced. She is growing up so fast! She even looks older!

Love ya!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Good piano session

I finally sat down to hear the boys practice the piano, and I learned that I can't leave it up to them yet. I'm not prepared to have them practice like I used to! :-) Just because I was shortsighted about that doesn't mean I have to allow them to make the same mistake! I can understand and sympathize when they don't want to practice, but I am still going to make sure they do it!

If we practice together again tomorrow, I think Steven will have some pieces to sign off tomorrow. He gets points for memorized pieces. He's coming along.

Dragon is also doing well. He is catching up to Steven because I am there to pass him off and assign new pieces as he is ready. This summer will be advantageous to Monkey because I will do the same for him. I need to find a different series of books to move Dragon into as well. I really like this Bastien series, but I don't want such an easy comparison between the boys! They both need to feel good about how they are doing! (I also think Dragon has the advantage because he hears Monkey practicing the songs before he starts them so it's kind of like practicing them in his mind.)

Thursday, May 3, 2007

I got my goal planning done!

I made an insane statement that I had figured out how to handle piano practicing. Scratch that! The 30 minutes idea is good, but it isn't enough. Unfortunately, morning is the best time for practicing *and* for schoolwork so how do we do both?! We'll work it out.

I'm afraid I'm just going to have to break down and set alarms either for the kids or for me and get up earlier. Ugh! I just went to a homeschool conference where one of the things I learned was to figure out my "way of being" so to speak. My way of being is to be up doing at night. My kids time is morning. Afternoons should be a break for me and for them. So. . . I'm still figuring it out. For the record, back before kids, I used to set 2 - 3 alarms to get me up in time to get to work and I still didn't get up in time about a quarter of the time!

My major achievement right now is setting new goals for the remainder of 2007. Yes, I know that bridges two half "school" years, but you know, that's how our schedule works! I actually have a written outline for what we will be covering, how it will be graded, and goals. The only question mark that I'm very unsure of is science. My weak point. I'm proving the scripture that says that if we will turn unto the Lord, he will show us our weaknesses that they may become strong. I purchased an Apologia text for last year on Flying Things that I think we will use now for the boys anyway. It is a very good text and interesting enough that Dragon has actually read parts of it. Only parts or I would move to the next text. Dog Lover will be learning about plant life, and both are learning about rocks and minerals right now. The library has a ton on that! We actually got started on that thanks to the Webelos geologist activity badge and then I found a cool sticker book at the homeschool convention I just attended last week.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Piano practicing

I finally figured out how to handle piano practicing in our day. The boys no longer are required to practice their whole lesson. They must practice 1/2 hour and do whatever they can in that time. Then if they want to practice more in the afternoon, they are most welcome to, but 80 minute practice sessions are ***over***! I can't do it anymore!

The other thing I have found is that piano has to happen first thing in the morning which causes a major conflict with breakfast. So.......I am going to have to break down and buy cold cereal for the mornings. I detest doing that, but it beats starving! I think soda crackers would be a good purchase too. When I get up early, everything comes together okay, but when I get up late, I run out of time! Then I don't have to put much effort into breakfast or lunch so schoolwork doesn't get interrupted.

I am hoping to get over to the homeschool conference tonight after the boys get their awards at pack meeting. I really want to peruse some of the science curriculums. There has to be something out there that would click for us.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

We are done!

Today was Geology Day! We finished the requirements for the Webelos geology activity badge. Woohoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We are done! That was the last badge they had to earn to receive all their compass points. The final hurrah is the April pack meeting because their birthdays are coming up soon!

For their geology pin, the boys researched all kinds of minerals (love you, Wikipedia!), learned about the Mohs hardness scale, guesstimated where the minerals that were used to build our house fall on the hardness scale, learned about the 4 precious gemstones (not required), and drew pictures of volcanoes with an explanation of what makes them erupt.

Did you know that the 4 precious gemstones are diamond (of course!), ruby, sapphire, and emerald? And that emerald is the softest of the four? It falls on about 7.5 - 8 on the Mohs hardness scale, ruby and sapphire are at 9, and diamonds are something like 9 times harder than anything else at a 10. A fingernail is harder than talc. Sometimes I think the things you learn on the way to the things you are supposed to learn are the most fun! (I just learned that using an encyclopedia as your "only" source will often earn you a failing grade! Maybe that's why I rarely used encyclopedia's! Wikipedia includes color pictures though which is very helpful to those of us who are not geologists! And we didn't use it at all for things like the Mohs hardness scale although I just found some sources in it.)

Here's a quick definition of how hardness of minerals is rated:
"The hardness of a mineral is a measure of its ability to resist abrasion or scratching by other minerals or by an object of known hardness. A simple scale based on empirical tests has been developed and is called the Mohs Hardness Scale. The scale consists of 10 minerals arranged in increasing hardness with 1 being the softest. The 10 minerals selected to form the scale of comparison are listed above. Objects with higher values on Mohs' scale are capable of scratching objects with lower values. For example, a rock specimen that can be scratched by a copper coin but not by the fingernail is said to have a hardness of about 3. A rock specimen with a hardness of 5 or more is considered hard." (from here)

Dog Lover was mostly bored through all the geology studies. She asked to use the picnic hamper and went out back for a picnic. Then she did her own schoolwork. No piano practicing happened today. I think Monkey and I needed a break! Monkey did some of his regular schoolwork, and Dragon finished up his Artist requirements. (He wanted to redo two pictures he created on the computer.)

Monday, April 23, 2007


I went to the dentist and my teeth checked out strong. Woohoo! Big relief! I feel like a wet noodle; I am literally exhausted from my worry. It has been three years since I last went to a dentist so I am grateful there were no surprises. The only bad part is that my gums have been receding more so I'm going to need some skin grafts as soon as I can save up the money. In the meantime, I need to be a little kinder in my brushing.

The other great thing was that my kids made all kinds of crafts from various countries today. They ran across an art book in the bookcase and started (and finished) one project after another. We now have Vietnamese lanterns, Indian candles, and I can't remember what all else. Wonderful! I love my kids. They are so resourceful!

As for cooking, I didn't have to make dinner. We went over to Palmer's for Elder Hicken's last dinner there, and I just had to make rolls. Wonderful!!!

Slow start

I'm dreading today. Lots of have tos. Have to cook. Have to supervise piano practicing. Have to make sure school work gets done. Need to change to I am so grateful I have food to cook. I am so grateful the kids are learning to play the piano. I am so grateful for the freedom to homeschool. Have to go to the dentist. Positive spin? I am grateful I have dental insurance and that the dentist's office is close to our home.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

We cleaned the yard today!

We had a major ice storm last January that caused quite a lot of havoc in our yard. Our neighbors had it much worse, but we got enough! We had branches crash down on the roof, and we had to cut down some trees that were damaged. We have been slowly working through the clean up. We got most of the big stuff out to the road for the city to remove, but there have been a thousand sticks on the ground, plus the big branches that fell that Jim has/will cut up for firewood.

There has been enough "litter" of that stuff on the ground that we have not wanted to risk damaging our lawn mower by trying to mow the lawn. However, we have had so much rain that the lawn has been growing abundantly and needs a mow.

This morning, we had planned to go to the Springfield Art Museum with a lady in our ward who is quite the artist. After we got home, I felt tired so I took a half hour nap after lunch. Afterward, the boys were working on the computer art pieces for the Webelos Artist badge so I went up and starting picking up the piles of sticks the kids raked up a couple of weeks ago. Monkey came out awhile later and started moving logs to the woodpile.

After picking up the backyard pile, I headed to the front with Dog Lover and started raking up the sticks up there. She started helping me when I was loading sticks in the wheelbarrow by raking the sticks in tighter piles. Finally the clean up was done, and I brought out the lawn mower. It was a big job, and I was exhausted after doing it, but the front yard is done and part of the backyard is also completed. While I was mowing the front yard, Dragon went out back and finished stacking the logs he could handle so now the only logs out are the ones that need to be cut smaller.

I was relieved to have that done. I hate having a messy yard!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

It's been a few days. . . .

It occurred to me that I probably need to continue my paper method of keeping track of hours. Especially since getting on the computer to log the hours is sometimes lethal to my homeschooling day! :-) There are always things to do on the computer so it is better to keep it off sometimes! So maybe I'll just write about high points.

Today was a valuable reminder to one son that respect must come first. Then privileges happen. The "lesson" was painful and the consequence stunk, but he finally accepted it with a happy face and dealt with it. Hopefully next time he will not lose privilege. He's a champ, and he is learning! I am very grateful for that!

I have purchased a used copy of Writing Strands, and I hope it will be a good thing for us. Worksheets, i.e., Abeka, are not working for us very well. It's boring to work on just grammar. Hopefully it will seem more germane to the kids if they are writing fun things and getting grammar lessons along the way. I am not saying grammar is not important---I'm a stickler for those details---just that my main objective is to get the kids comfortable with communicating effectively with the written word. If you know how to make the plural of fox, that's great, but if you can't write about foxes, that's bad. Likewise, if you can use apostrophes appropriately but can't string three words together in a sentence, that's kucky. So. . . here we come with Writing Strands! I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, April 13, 2007


We did about 1 1/2 hours of music, 3 hours of P.E., and 1 1/2 hours of drama, and some seatwork.

I worked on our tax return and tried to find paperwork for our Kentucky home.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I'm not sure how today went. Ever had days like that? We began a unit in the Spectrum 6th grade Geography text on straits. We reviewed it, checked Dragon and Monkey's answers, discussed them, and expanded on them. It was interesting.

The kids did their math from MasterPak today. Monkey completed his Singapore Math workbook. Where were those when the boys were younger?! The workbooks are marvelous! Since we began at the beginning (probably far too simple), we haven't really used the textbooks. I bought one textbook for the first level, mostly for Dog Lover, and accidentally bought the textbooks instead of the workbooks for the 2nd one. Dragon tested out of the 1b level so we'll move on. Monkey needs to take the test, but I think he'll pass it too. I'll probably buy one 1b workbook for Dog Lover because that is more her level. (It's actually 2nd grade.) It's a good opportunity to catch what we overlooked for the boys (like fractions). However, for right now I'm using the MasterPak worksheets supplemented by me. I have the CD, and I don't want to buy any more workbooks. By fall, I will, but we will be at grade level by then. I am really impressed with how Singapore Math forces the kids to use their reasoning skills. Apparently, they are known for their story problems, and that is why I'm not totally sure we are going to skip workbooks. I have been very impressed with the reasoning ability they are developing in my kids.

They did no English today except they began their books that they will be writing reports on. That took about an hour. Music took about 2 hours. Dog Lover did her language arts and then read her Clifford books to us. Once again, why didn't I buy those many years ago?! She absolutely adores Clifford--after all, he's a dog! The first day she got them, she would not be separated from them. They come in a cardboard case with a handle--they're the Phonics Fun series. I checked the grade level and it says Baby-Preschool. Interestingly, most babies would probably tear the books because they are just paper. It made me feel badly and really condemn myself for not jumping on it back when the boys were little! They loved Clifford too. The Clifford books are a lot more interesting and engaging than the Bob Books which I used for the boys and somewhat for Dog Lover. She has read the books so many times that it has gotten much faster for her. Yet she doesn't just read them by rote. She sounds out the words. In fact, the words she has to learn by sight still trip her up. So...she is doing preschool reading, 6th grade geography, 4th-5th grade history, and 1st-2nd grade math. I actually think she can handle multiplication but her books are not there yet. (She keeps up with her brothers though.)