Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New year resolution

Here comes the new year and time for new resolutions and new directions.  Sometimes change is hard, and this resolution is one I have struggled with for some time.

What resolution?  Retiring this blog.

At first it filled a real purpose for me, but my inspiration seems to have dried up.  Plus the fact that I was beginning to spend far too much time on the computer.  So the time has come to say goodbye.

I will miss writing (although I'm keeping my family blog going), I'll miss the directed focus to homeschooling, and I'll miss the comments.  

I will try to keep up (although sporadically) with your posts.  I do not promise to comment though.  Those take me some time to compose, but I do promise to enjoy what I read!

I will miss the encouraging words I have received through this blog.  Bless you for making them!

Lastly, I wish you a wonderful new year with bountiful blessings.  May the Lord watch over you with loving care every moment of your lives.

A third of your day?

I just got an email from Vitacost about how a school has found a 3% increase in kids eating fruits and vegetables when schools remove the sugary treats from the school's premises.  One rebuttal was interesting.  The person quoted said, "Sandon also said school cafeteria services get an 'awfully bad rap. The kids are only eating one meal at school, and they are only at school one third of their day.'"   

Excuse me?  Last I knew, schools offered breakfast as well.  As for the third of the day, another third is spent (hopefully) sleeping.  That leaves the last third for family, homework, extracurricular activities.  Hmmm.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thinking of you

Hi! We had a great Christmas although low key. I've been pretty sick and so has my husband, but it was nice anyway. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, minus sickness! I haven't been online here much either because we have been busy.

My posting will likely be irregular because we have some pretty ambitious school and career plans. (Santa brought some new workbooks which J-Dawg was actually excited to see, and we are busy with photography and rebranding our photography business. My main job is still homemaking, mothering, and homeschooling, but my husband is asking for some help on the photography side too.) Check out our site at

I apologize that this is so short and all over the place. It's very late, and I'm very tired. I just wanted to tell you I hope your Christmas was wonderful and that the rest of this year and next are very good for you and your families!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

December activities

Okay, so friends of mine are sending out cards, making cookies and candy, decorating their homes with lights, and participating in frenzied shopping. (The mall looked awfully quiet today though!)

Us? Our tree has been up forever (and we love seeing it), I might get to writing a Christmas letter this year---maybe, fudge should happen sometime because I have everything I need or maybe Jim will make it, cookies don't last beyond 3 days, and cinnamon rolls haven't been on the docket yet but need to be so he can take them to work.

BUT we are reading Genevieve Foster's World of Caesar Augustus and have reached the part about Herod, King of the Jews. Fitting reading, I think.

I found a fun mathematics workbook (a whopping 29 pages) for the kids to do before Christmas. Lots of colors, easy on the eyes, fun theme (Princesses and Scooby Doo). What more could a child ask for?

Ahem! Those things must wait for Christmas Day! ;-)

Friday, December 5, 2008


They did it! The boys finished their workbooks. For a reward, they got some money and computer game time. They're thinking they are pretty special!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

December begins

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We did. It was nice to have the whole family home, including Jim. He was determined not to go into the office, and he kept that promise until later Friday. For Thanksgiving, I baked 1 cherry, 2 chocolate pudding, 1 apple, and 1 pumpkin pie. I think we finished them all off yesterday. Mmm.....maybe there is one more slice of apple pie in the refrigerator.

Jim and I went shopping to atypical stores on "Black Friday" and got our major Christmas shopping done. This year, I believe we have "hit" it with just a few presents. I am soooo excited to have them open them. Quantity we'll not have, but quality we will!

The boys took their purple belt test on Saturday and did mighty fine! S-man was on fire! Normally he gets nervous but seems calm. This time his movements were executed with a punch! Both were exhausted when they finished. Guest judges came up from Arkansas and they had a hard time telling the boys apart (important when you are judging!) The local black belts said, "You think it's hard now? Wait until they begin!" The boys tend to work at the same rhythm---even with their eyes closed.

Jewell just competed in a tumbling medal meet---and won a medal. Considering they didn't have long to practice their routines, she did very well. She needed a little help about halfway through, but she remembered it better than anyone else. She loves gymnastics! This week she'll have two classes because it was canceled for Thanksgiving last week.

On the school front, the boys are finishing their American Heritage Publishing workbooks as fast as they can! Christmas money is on the line. I don't usually bribe them with money, but they need Christmas money anyway....

My exciting news is that I just finished the Old Testament. I'm ashamed to admit that I have never completely read the Old Testament all the way through before now. Even in Seminary when I was a teenager. I was truly amazed at how addicting it was. I really enjoyed it. Sure, there were parts I slogged through, but the wisdom I learned was amazing. Things I had always been taught were there; I found them for myself! The last several prophetic writings were especially hard hitting for me---where it talks about the importance, and hence the condemnation heaped on the people, for failing to observe the Sabbath day, build and attend the temple, and pay tithing. Those prophets wrote much of the last days, so much as to engage my attention completely.

So there you have our last couple of weeks in a nutshell!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Great Depression

We are done with the Great Depression, and I am relieved. Very depressing study. I was going to do more study on my own, but I can't face it. Thankfully the books for next year are much lighter.

Onward. The boys are working on papers about the 3 kingdoms of Korea, required before they test for their purple belts. In other words, it is due today!

This month they are all reading Stowaway from Mushroom Planet and writing a science fiction story of their own on an assigned topic--no gravity, no trees, and reverse global warming. They will also be creating some kind of graphic model like a diorama or something else pictorially about something in the book.

Additionally, S-man is reading Johnny Tremain and will be writing a report following one of several models about it. J-Dawg has Carry On, Mr. Bowditch.

The boys have an additional incentive to finish their workbooks by December so they can earn Christmas money.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

End of the week

Shaundra's eye is doing better. I think the bruising will be gone by Monday. Ice packs the first day and homeopathic Arnica frequently have been doing the trick. My hubby took a picture last night after she went to bed. Hopefully I'll get it posted by Monday.

I froze 8 or 9 bags of sliced apples today. We bought them a couple of weeks ago, but I've been dreading canning them. So I didn't. I froze them. It went quickly, and we have far more freezer space than shelf space these days. I've been working on solidly filling my pantry shelves for awhile now. Too bad we have to keep eating the stuff, or it would fill even faster! :-)

Too freeze them, I sliced them as I wanted them in a pie, tossed the slices with Fruit Fresh, shoved them in freezer bags, labeled the bags, and dropped them in the freezer. Couldn't have been easier!

Grateful to have that done, the freezer almost full, and a warm furnace. It feels like the Arctic circle outside with the wind knifing through a body! (I hung out a load of laundry, and they dried thanks to the wind!)

The wind is also taking care of the leaves that never got raked up. So sorry to whatever neighbors ended up with them. The kids jumped in them many times though so hopefully they'll compost well on whoever's yard got them. (Gotta find the humor in there somewhere or I might cry.)

Oh, yeah, J-Dawg actually hit the books today. I think mentioning the new workbook got him excited. That or Dad's chat with him about getting his work done.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Teacher prep day?

Today I spent an inordinate amount of time grading papers. My kids have been working through some workbooks more aggressively now that one of their co-ops has ended for the term (possibly for good). Since these are workbooks and not tests, they get to rework mistakes with me---joyful times for them, I'm sure. S-man did his after taekwondo when his dad was home with the other Star Wars DVDs they have been so anxious to watch. As you can imagine, some of his math problems took about a half hour longer to correct because he was caught up discussing the plots of those DVDs. (They have read several Star Wars books so already know the story.) I wonder if they would have learned to read sooner if I had used Star Wars-themed books?!

As I mentioned, the kids watched Phantom Menace of the Star Wars trilogy. They have been dying to see the second trilogy! We didn't allow them to watch it when they were younger because they tended to get scared easily and it is violent! Because of these movies, the light saber battles around here have been more frequent and so very loud! Why is it boys are so loud? Should I be glad they are and take over my husband's MP3 player to play quiet tunes? It seems like most moms of boys of my acquaintance say the same thing so maybe it is good that they are so normal!

Jewell stayed pretty quiet today after an eventful morning of practicing catching the ball after throwing it up in the air. She missed one throw, and it hit her eye. It swelled up pretty good and is a definite purple. She passed on going to gymnastics today; she said she was afraid she would bump it although it doesn't hurt. Nothing seems to be broken, and her eye is all right. I just realized I didn't take a picture---not that she's going to want it memorialized anyway. I hurt for her. The plus was that we got some together time while I read some stories to her. (By quiet, I mean noise wise. Once we got the swelling down, she played as usual minus the light saber battles. She knows from experience that someone commonly gets whacked and wanted nothing to do with it today.)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Great Depression

I just found out we are supposed to make a presentation about the Great Depression for our literature group.

What a huge topic! While it has been much on my mind, and I've been studying it, I haven't really known how to start it with my kids. We're reading the book Footprints in the Dust---not on the boys' Top Ten picks!

Anyone got any ideas for me? Links?

Update: I found this site and read the Wikipedia entry and Rose Wilder's entry (from the linked site). She compared the depression of the 1890s vs the 1930s, showing more resiliency and self-reliance in the 1890s than during the New Deal policies. She also gives an overview of her own political evolution.

I think we’ll do a timeline, listen to some music, read a biography I have from a Kentucky neighbor vs. events in Utah, (big differences). . . . That’s as far as I’ve gotten. Wikipedia was an entertaining read. I had to check to see if I was reading a historical entry or the newspaper! It has a lot on the various theories that might be interesting to study.

On a personal note, I think that the solution lies in one mandate: "Love thy neighbor as thyself." I started thinking about that with the Enron scandal. I do not believe in the government mandating, "We shalt make thee love thy neighbor." I believe the people who came through the depression the best were those with family support even if the whole family struggled. The ones who came through it worst, did not.

My neighbor remembers her family being thrown out of a makeshift shack in eastern Kentucky (coal-mining country down deep in the hollers that are still unmapped) by an uncle who had found a paying renter. I was shocked that they didn't just make room in their own home, no matter how small! She hailed FDR as a Savior.

My family (grandparent and parent generation mostly) held together and have no written record of anything to do with FDR. I think the one "best" advice I have seen in recent days is one from the Dolans to hold our families closer during these times. They are our best investment. (Not a direct quote---I'm too lazy to pull up the email.)

For another look at how blessed we are, check out Pioneer Woman's blog about her family's recent trip to the Dominican Republic with Compassion. We are truly blessed!

Please share your family's stories from the depression with us! I'd love to get them from all over the country or world! If you click on the complete profile link under the About Me section on the sidebar, it will show you an email link to send us your family's stories.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Miscellaneous and pictures

I'm sure it is more than allergies! As miserable as allergies are, this is far worse!!! On the up side, I am on the mend! If I could just stop coughing to prove that. . . . Of course being as stubborn as I am, I won't go to the doctor.

Due to a chilly night last night, I purchased my daughter some flannel sheets from Sam's Club and pulled out a quilt for her bed. Her room gets downright cold! The boys were fine; their room stays warmer.

My sister has been in the hospital but is now out. She missed the election because she was so ill that she could not breathe. She is extremely prone to pneumonia. She sounded extremely weak, but I'm grateful she's on the mend. She was flabbergasted when she asked the nurse if there was something nutritionally she could be doing to help her stay well (this is #3 this year), and the nurse said no. That's why I struggle with doctors. She wasn't asking about once she gets sick, she was asking about preventative measures. They didn't even suggest drinking more water (she was severely dehydrated). When medical science can start looking at all approaches without being threatened, they will become more helpful again. (Thank goodness she has a very good nutritionist friend who is helping her now that she is home.)

My heart and prayers go out to all those affected by the GM losses. I think it's time to wrap my head around cleaning out everything we don't need and go donate it all to Goodwill. Somebody may be able to use what we aren't!

Here are some things we have been doing:

Here is a picture of the outline we made for the judicial, legislative, and executive branch responsibilities per the Constitution.

A close-up of the Judicial branch responsibilities:
The Executive branch responsibilities:
Here's part 1 of the Legislative branch responsibilities. These shows the unshared House of Representatives responsibilities vs. the Senate's responsibilities.
Here's the chart of their shared responsibilities:
We also learned that anything not enumerated by the Constitution was specifically prohibited to the federal government. Hmmmmm.

It's definitely not all work and no play around here. Here's a recent MSU game we attended. My daughter took these pictures.
Their band:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Onward and School's OUT for today!

I listened to Barack Obama's speech last night and was very impressed at how he did exactly what he needed to do in that speech. He is an incredible speech maker and has such a powerful energy. What he will do (esp. with a Dem Congress) sickens me, but I'll bet he will become a very popular president.

On the other hand traditional families were reaffirmed, for which I am grateful. Abortion was not defeated which saddens me greatly. Someday way off in the future, we will understand what we did.

And now off to other things.....

I am not feeling well so I'm hoping to hold it together long enough to get through school time. I thought it was allergies, but I think (and am almost hoping) it is something more like a cold. My throat hurts so read-aloud time won't happen today. Naptime will. ;-) Hopefully J-Dawg is better today. He sounded better sleeping.

UPDATE: After 1/2 carton of strawberry Haagen-Dazs ice cream, I feel slightly better. But. . . school is out today. So if anyone drives past my house and sees my children out playing, that's because school is out for the day. So don't condemn me or homeschooling! (For the record, I seriously doubt that the public school is having much luck with formal education today. The energy level is too high.) My children are outside playing in the leaves, however, and having an absolutely fabulous day away from "sick" germs!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Heavy heart

My heart is heavy tonight. Barring a miracle (CA swinging red?), Republicans are in very nearly the same position that the Dems were in 8 years ago. McCain just barely lost the popular vote. My heart hurts. It doesn't help that I knew it could very well happen. At least the popular vote is close--at least, so far. There are so many moral issues that really matter that are being lost. Can we gain the Lord's blessings if we turn our backs on such issues?

On a pragmatic issue, I am very concerned for the possible specters that are rising for homeschoolers as I watch the political landscape changing. I am curious as to how the demographics are playing out. I am grateful that Missouri seems to be staying red although it is still very close. I am praying for the Lord's peace and protection on our family and likeminded families. He will not turn his back to us; we would have to do that.

I voted!

I voted. McCain and company. And I'm contemplating going to the zoo so I don't watch the results. Wonderful turnout at the booths although I did want to hit the lady who snidely said, "No, I don't want to see the sample ballot. I know everything that's on it." (There are quite a few state constitution amendments on it. It's a big election all the way around here.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Responsibilities of the 3 branches of government

It has been awhile since my last post. Let's just assume that means everything ran smoothly but there was nothing spectacular to report. Amazingly enough, some days are just normal with nothing extra. ;-) I know that is tough to believe. (haha)

However, we did a fun exercise yesterday about our federal government. We didn't get to complete it at the co-op so we are going to be doing it again later this afternoon.

Yesterday's co-op leader assigned the kids into 3 groups representing the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of government. Then she read off individual responsibilities of each branch and had the kids (and moms) guess which group was responsible for them. Very visual and very effective.

I just printed off the labels, so I'll take pictures and post them when we're done.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Christmas already?

Worried about Christmas presents and trying to make it more meaningful? Check out Jen's blog and watch the You Tube video. Since we all know I am technologically challenged, I'll just let you go there. It will work better. (FYI In another lifetime, I wrote user manuals and most of these things have terrible user instructions--nonexistent.)

In the meantime, I'm grateful to know I'm not the only one already worrying about the whole Christmas thing. To be a kid again and assume it just happens . . . .

As for Halloween? We're checking out! The trunk or treat is this weekend after our church's Fall Festival and the boys will be on a campout. Great way to enforce the rule that 12-year-olds cannot trick or treat. Enforced by DAD who used to be one of those bullies who made little kids give up their candy. (It really stinks when DAD knows all the tricks of the trade.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joomla anyone?

Okay, I've been eating humble pie. My sister asked me to help with her website, and I'm finding out how truly stupid I am with things computer--at least with web design. The online documentation doesn't help me much, and I don't know HTML.

Does anyone else deal with feeling pretty worthless if you can't "fix it"? As I was working through some issues that became apparent when I saw the site on the i-Phone, I read some of the points she gives that relate to that very issue. I think I need her book!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A renewed goal

It has been an eventful week! I'm sorry for not being a little more regular in my posting. I have missed reading blogs and reporting in about some things we are doing.

The dog has adjusted to not having the boys around although I think he'll be delighted to have them back. We all know now whose dog he is!

The other day, my mother-in-law called to tell us to call anytime we wanted to. I guess the boys have been a little homesick. I've wanted to call, but my hubby kept saying that we need to give them space. We know they are safe so we need to let them go a little bit. It's nice to know they still need us though.

My daughter is playing dress up with her brothers' old clothes. She just came out wearing some pajamas they had when they were little. The long pants were shorts, and the shirt that hit their hips barely made it to her waist, but they were on. It was a surprise to turn around and see them on her---brought back many memories!

It has been nice to have time to just work with her on her school work though. We have cruised through her workbooks! Normally she drags her feet about doing them (okay, she wasn't thrilled to do her math!), but she did a bunch! My dream is to spend at couple of hour s a day one-on-one with each rather than always working with them as a group. Specifically on their workbooks. It doesn't sound that hard to accomplish, does it? Throw in all the other things we do though, and it gets well nigh impossible! Somehow I'm going to get closer to it next week though. That's my goal!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Football, boys' trip (revised for hs only content)

I moved the political commentary over to my Just Thinking blog. See the blog list for that reference if you're interested.

My boys are off with their grandparents having a wonderful time seeing the Flippin Church of God (for real in Flippin, Arkansas); Memphis, Tennessee; Pickwick Dam; NASA Space Center in Huntsville, Alabama; and Chattanooga, Tennessee. We just got back with our daughter from watching the Missouri State Bears walk all over Youngstown State University. And here's Jewell enjoying Return of the Jedi. She had a major Star Wars night last night.

J-Dawg and S-man called and the phone line almost crackled with life from them. They carry a life-giving energy. It is incredible!

Political must reads

This blog is worth a read--right now Paula is talking about things political, specifically Proposition 8 in California about same sex marriage and how it affects every single family. I really believe this election needs to boil down to morals and morality. The predictions are ominous . . . especially when compared to prophecies.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Art class

I absolutely love it when someone else writes a post about my kids! Here's a link to a blog of a friend of ours that graciously offered to teach art to my children. Yup, we're the homeschooling family she refers to, and those are my children and their creations.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Paul Revere to Constitutional studies

Myth: Paul Revere waited for the message from the lanterns in the Old North Church before he began his ride.

Fact: Instead, he was actually the one that came up with that system and the one that told the sexton how many lanterns to hold up. BTW, 2 men only held the lanterns up in the tower for a few moments, not long enough for the British regulars to notice, so colonists in Charlestown would get the word in case both Revere and Dawes were captured. Paul Revere knew which way the British would go before he ever left Boston since he was the one that delivered the message to the sexton.

Myth: There were only 2 riders carrying the message.

Fact: By the end of the night, there were probably 40 different riders taking the message to Lexington and Concord.

Myth: Paul Revere got through to John Hancock and Samuel Adams first.
Fact: Dr. Samuel Prescott was actually the one who reached John Hancock and Samuel Adams first. He was "a doctor who happened to be in Lexington 'returning from a lady friend's house at the awkward hour of 1 a.m.'" Made a good excuse for being out at such an unreasonable hour didn't it?

Myth: Paul Revere and William Dawes made it all the way to Concord.
Fact: All 3 of the "famous" riders, Prescott, Revere, and William Dawes were detained by the British in Lincoln but Prescott jumped his horse over a wall and escaped through woods. Dawes escaped also but fell off his horse shortly after, ending his ride. Revere was detained and questioned and escorted back toward Lexington. Upon hearing shots, they took his horse and left. Revere then helped Hancock and Adams escape with a trunk of Hancock's papers.

Myth: Paul Revere called, "The British are coming, the British are coming," as he rode through the countryside.
Fact: The colonists thought of themselves as British citizens so he would not have said that. Besides, there would have been British soldiers stationed all over. The message depended on secrecy from the British regulars so he would have quietly announced something like, "The regulars are coming out."
(Information from Wikipedia)

Okay, so this version is not quite as romantic as Longfellow's poem, Paul Revere's Ride, long memorialized and memorized by folks all over, but I think it might be more important.

First of all, Paul Revere was not particularly famous for the ride while he was alive. He didn't toot his own horn. Second, he wasn't concerned with whether he got the message through; he just wanted to be sure it got through.

How much can we, as average citizens learn from him? He did his duty and then some. He was very active in the Sons of Liberty, and it sounds like he spied for them. He followed his convictions, and he didn't pass off the hard work to someone else. What marvelous lessons!

So why am I posting this here on a homeschooling blog? Because today we attended an event on elections where I decided that I've postponed an in-depth study of the Constitution for too long. Tonight I pulled out a teacher's guide from the National Center for Constitutional Studies and discussed some of those ideas with the kids over dinner. (Learning seems to go better when the kids are eating. Why don't I remember that more?) The discussion around the dinner table, along with an assignment of writing a paper about key people led to questions of what role John Hancock played after signing the Declaration of Independence. Online searches on Hancock led us to Paul Revere. Don't ask. It's too convoluted. I think the boys will remember this though.

Oh, yeah. S-man will be researching George Washington; J-Dawg, Thomas Jefferson; and Jewell, John Adams. (I might have her research Abigail Adams instead since I think she would be more interested in her, and Abigail played a major role in those times.)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Boys really do grow up

We had our homeschool co-op today, and it was rough. We take turns teaching, and the mom that had today was very uptight with her son. She had wonderful activities but wanted everyone to be perfectly orderly--at least indoors. I was so glad her last activity was outside because she was able to relax.

I felt so bad for her. I know what it is like to feel like my children are the only ones who can't keep their seat, talk without raising their hands, etc., but on the other hand, I'm thrilled when my kids actually volunteer the answer. They usually stay quiet, at least as regards answering questions, etc. Her son is very quick and doesn't want to wait for the whole thing to be presented for everyone. He's ready to move on. It's hard, and I so wish I could help her be okay with him. Boys change; that is a constant. Next year, he'll be older and more able to be quiet but maybe not so eager to learn and participate.

If I could have heard myself from now a year or so ago when I couldn't contain my own boys, I wouldn't have believed me! Or was that last week?

Here are some pictures. We learned about photosynthesis today.

All the kids had a cut-out of various elements a plant needs. For example, rain soaks through the stomata and the oxygen is released through the stomata, but the glucose is sent down to the roots. J-Dawg was Phyll in the Chloroplast that did all the work converting CO2, rain, and sunshine into glucose and oxygen.

Afterward, they dissected flowers and identified the parts of the blossom. Last, some of the kids pretended to be bees (outside) while others were parts of flowers with bowls holding the pollen or receiving the pollen (oatmeal). That was fun. The busy-boy ate about as much uncooked oatmeal as he could get away with. Maybe hunger was his challenge with keeping still?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Have hope

Today was the first day of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints semi-annual conference broadcasted from Salt Lake City. It was a very reassuring, comforting conference, full of messages of the power of faith, hope, charity, and prayer. You can listen to it at under General Conference or here. I want to share a single thought right now, probably paraphrased (since I can't remember for sure whether I got it word for word) from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf.

While talking about the relationship of hope to faith and charity, he said, "With hope, we can have patience."

Timely message for troubling times.

Timely message for daily challenges. I would never have thought about lack of hope being the cause of lack of patience, but as I have thought about that idea, it makes sense. Sometimes I lose patience with someone because I have a lack of hope that they will "get" it, other times I lose it because I lose faith in myself to explain something adequately, sometimes I despair and hope goes out the window, and other times . . . do I lose faith in my Savior being able to make up the difference? Or lose faith that I'm worth enough for Him to help me? But I know all of us, me included, are children of His, and He will help us. He will bring peace in our own homes if we will trust him.

I have found spending time in the scriptures with my family or just myself, brings His hope back to me. That's important right now. It's so easy to get caught up in the gloom of today's problems and lose perspective of the "easiness of His way." (paraphrased)

I love you all! I pray all of us hold onto hope. The world and our families need our hope.

Friday, October 3, 2008


After the vice presidential debates last night, I got on the 'net with some specific questions. I got some of those answered, but I also turned this up. Okay, somewhere along the way I missed it. Totally believable since I tend to get political overload and have to break away from it for a time. But this, filed by a Hilary Clinton supporter, is serious. Who is this man and what country is he a citizen of?

a/k/a BARRY SOETORO, a/k/a

Apparently, as of Oct 1, this is a live case. I spent about 2 hours searching out more information. Why isn't the DNC stepping forward to clear their man instead of just delaying action? If the RNC did this . . . hoo boy, what an outcry there would be! (as there should be)

After an almost 800 point drop

Good for my economy! I love living here!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Economic mess (added postscript)

I just got this information from a friend's email. I think it makes a lot of sense and has a better chance of working without passing off penalties and ugly ramifications to our children and grandchildren. It came from Dave Ramsey. If my link didn't work, you can find it at: I like this because there is accountability attached without an idiotic $700 billion debt to break American tax payer's backs over.

The final note regrets that this is not going to be an easy thing politically because certain individuals/party is going to say that it benefits the rich. As Ramsey points out, that is true, but (my words here) when was the last time most of us were able to do something of large magnitude for the country. I believe the best thing we can do as a people is to make it attractive for the "rich" to put their money in places where it can benefit the most number of people. They are, after all, taking a risk. To me, that is a duh! If I have a child that doesn't want to do his homework and I have something that he wants, would I be wiser to use that as an incentive or threaten a whipping? Which would be more effective to cause a better learning environment that would be more likely a positive emotion toward that subject?

Please read the link!

P.S. I forgot probably the most important part about the email. Point 1 was to pray for our leaders--whether we like them or not. Pray that they will resist the spirit of fear and act in wisdom. They need it, no matter who they are. I think praying for Americans everywhere for that same blessing would be a good idea too. Fear is powerful, but faith is more so. And faith reaches better results.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Math switcharoo

I am extremely thankful that I didn't throw out our Mortenson Math materials when we moved. I nearly did. Then I almost did again last spring when I was cleaning. The third time was a couple of weeks ago when I was reorganizing our art supplies and scrapbooking drawers. Thursday I pulled them out again and said, "Ah, hah!" It is exactly the approach we need toward math, a Montessori way of learning. For two days running, my kids have thanked me for those books. They love math presented that way! Phenomenal!!! Granted, the books they are working right now are easy for them because it is a review, but it is teaching a whole different approach and habits toward math so it is necessary. Besides, it is showing them (for the first time in their lives) that they are good at math! That's worth a little bit of review. I was amazed at how quickly the boys remembered stuff when presented with these books again, but the best part was that it has evoked pleasant memories, not the typical groaning and complaining. Score!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


For what it's worth, here's my philosophy on education:

I have a responsibility to provide the opportunities my children need to learn that which is important for them to know. I have a responsibility to teach them the concepts they must understand. I have a responsibility to answer their questions at times and direct them to the answers at other times.

I do not have a responsibility to learn the stuff for them. That is my children's responsibility.

More importantly, I do not have to accept any blame for their unwillingness to study and learn their assignments. (Assuming of course that it has been presented in a way that they can grasp the concepts.)

So . . . as of today, I have created a system of charts to help them track their own progress and make sure that they progress in a timely fashion. The reward is that they will be able to do extracurricular things if they get their stuff done. "Stuff" refers to both household chores and schoolwork. They get it done, they get to do their own thing. They don't, and ...... oops.

If everyone completes their stuff in the week, they get a movie or computer time.

Bribery. It works. Much more pleasantly than yelling and screaming.

Friday, September 19, 2008

WARNING: Don't go here!

I just had a Trojan worm threaten my computer so I'm warning everyone off the site that seemed to cause it. It is www dot flexequity dot com. Don't go there!

I just received my bank statement with a flyer advertising their flex equity advantages. Being a curious person, I wanted to find out exactly what flex equity is since I've only had a vague idea about it. So I googled, "What is flex equity?" The second site listed (and the first one I selected) was the above site.

My computer almost immediately flashed into alarm mode, warning me a minute later that I had 3 instances of a Trojan worm. (Okay, my lack of knowledge is showing here--there were 3 lines of warnings that I think meant I had 3 places of attack.) I froze, knowing that if I touched anything I might be downloading a worm so I did the first safe thing that occurred to me. I called my husband. This is what he told me to do:

  1. Turn off my computer immediately by pressing and holding the power button.
  2. Unplug certain cords from internet access. Since I wasn't sure which cords to unplug, I pulled all the plugs from our router and modem that would come.
  3. Then, and only then, he told me to turn the computer back on (without reconnecting the cable or router.)
  4. I opened Windows normally and waited for it to fully load.
  5. Once it opened normally, I reconnected the modem and router.
Internet restored, but I'm feeling much less sure of looking things up on the 'net. What if this had happened to one of my kids? Would they have pressed the button to activate whatever it was the program wanted to download? Ugly. What if this had happened to my parents?

Of course, they probably wouldn't have been looking up anything remotely related to that topic. Does the saying, "Curiosity killed the cat," apply here?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

If you have time

Read this for an incredible lesson-in-a-post about keeping your eye on your destination. Beautifully put even though my first reaction was to be scared about her son's safety, but the visual for keeping your eye on what is important was amazingly on target.

And this for an ode to mothers. Awesome post on women.

Arachnoid (more pics-esp. at bottom)

Even though we are studying spiders, I really didn't intend to have such a large specimen outside the window to study. We're trying to figure out what kind of spider it is. Can you help us? Click here to view a picture. (This is the only not-out-of-focus picture.)

Here are some more pictures -- taken with my camera unfortunately, meaning they aren't in focus because I'm zoomed in so far. Point and shoots only do so much.

Another one:

Gotcha! These are two of the craft spiders we made at co-op. Much less scary!

Could this be it?

Added *much* later: I'm told this is an eastern orb spider.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Stream ecology

Highlight of today:

We went to the Watershed Community of the Ozarks at the Water Valley Mill Park today to learn about stream ecology by Aquatics Biologist, Mike Kromrey. That is, after we got good and lost and took 45 minutes extra to find it!

The kids got to scoop out aquatic life from the stream and began identifying and counting the various species of life. They learned about how streams in the Ozarks tend to "disappear" and go underground for awhile before reappearing. The stream we were in went about 1/4 mile down and then went into the limestone for about 2 miles. Incredible, huh?!

Mr. Kromrey also taught them the importance of keeping the watershed pure. Ever wonder what and where a watershed is? Answer: It's the ground that water soaks into and eventually travels into the rivers, lakes, and streams. He taught them some painless ways to conserve water while he was at it, like not watering sidewalks, along with turning off faucets while brushing teeth.

Oh, yes, the kids scooped up some very interesting aquatic life too. Glass--auto safety glass. Definitely belongs in a stream that goes directly into our drinking water, no? Loverly.

Of course, you can't put a bunch of kids in a stream without some very fun swimming time. The stream was actually fairly deep in places. The kids were freezing when they got out of the water because the stream has a spring at its head. The sun was warm with a cloudless sky too.

Great day!

Really fast note

Just wanted to leave a quick note before I start my day. Yesterday we met for co-op and learned about spiders (arachnids). To wrap up, the kids got to make some cute crafty brown recluse spiders.

Scratch that picture idea. My camera batteries died.

They made a string web which I don't have a picture of, studied some poetry, and learned some more about insect metamorphosis. Next week it's my turn to teach. I'll be hitting more of the Language Arts/Writing angle. Surprise, surprise!

After that, we went shopping. The boys only desperately needed some new pants! My daughter found a Halloween costume. Normally I believe in waiting until the last possible second so as to get the best possible sales, but this time I was a softy.

Last weekend, my boys got several medals at the NPTA Nationals. The only drawback was that they competed against each other so both couldn't take the gold. J-Dawg won a gold and bronze medal. The gold entered him in the Grand Champion for the Youth Male Underbelt competition. Men and women compete separately, and underbelt are those ranks under black belt. Steven was edged out of the grand championship round by a tiebreaker with his brother, but he won 2 silver medals of his own!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sponges, jellyfish, and earthworms

We began our day looking up animals in the scriptures. The topical guide was helpful, but an old concordance I had was even better. We looked up "Animals" in the concordance (vs. going page by page through the topical guide) and found 30 or more. Then the kids each chose one animal and cut it out of a sponge. Once that was done, we found the properties of a sponge by putting it in water, squeezing it dry, dipping it in paint, stamping the animal on paper, and then looking up information about sponges via the internet. Great bridge from Bible to art to science, eh?

While we were on the net, we searched for pictures and information about jellyfish, the next invertebrate in the study list. J went and got his Wild Facts notebook and shared the pages on the Portuguese Man-o-War with the rest of us. Did you know it got its name from sailors that thought it looked like the Portuguese sailing vessel? That tells you a lot about how the animal moved! (It uses its umbrella as a sail on good days; on stormy days, it deflates the gas from the umbrella and sinks under the water's surface.)

Cool! Now I'm puzzling over dinner while letting the kids play with their K'nex amusement park.
(Added later: Check out this link for some cool Revolutionary era links.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Teaching English and arthropods

The other day I discovered that I really enjoy teaching English. This is the first time that I have unleashed myself from the workbooks and gone for it, drawing all over the white board of course. When I was in college completing my student teaching, I was pretty convinced that I would absolutely never teach school except to my own kids. I still don't think I'd like to take on high school and the associated challenges, but I love teaching writing! Enough so that I have a half-cocked idea to offer a class for homeschoolers in the area. (I certified in secondary ed so homeschooling is just starting to get fun for me!) I really like the Konos-in-a-box approach to teaching English.

Today I shared a website with my kids on arthropods. Warning: it takes evolution as fact clear back to the idea that all things came from one or two animals, but it also has a great illustration of what makes an arthropod an arthropod. The two parts are separate so you don't have to go to the evolutionary part. The link I gave starts at the "What is an arthropod?" section. The evolution part precedes it. I believe in a creator, and I believe he guided the process very carefully but since he hasn't filled in the details himself, I'm not going say he couldn't have used evolution when it was appropriate. However, the idea that everything came from one or two animals is ludicrous in my opinion. Especially given the command he gave to the animals to multiply and replenish the earth after their own kind. Cross two dogs of different breeds and you get a . . . dog. Not something else. If you cross a lab with a collie, you will get . . . a mutt. Cross enough mutts, and another breed of dog will emerge. Since animals obey our Father's commands, the idea of one kind (such as a dog) crossing with another kind (such as a cat) to make another kind (something else) simply makes no sense. Unless man gets involved and corrupts an animal, that would never happen.

Off the philosophizing, there are 5 things that must be present in order for an animal to be classified as an arthropod, and the website has an interactive display showing each characteristic. Then I drew out the kingdom, phylum, etc. in a diagram. For fun, I compared a bear to a lobster and charted it out. (They share the kingdom of Animalia and that's it.) Thanks to Wikipedia and its convenient classification list on each animal, it was easy. Wikipedia and me? We're buds.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Thumbs down for My Brother Sam is Dead

Today I waited for my daughter at our church's Primary activity. They have a quarterly activity that is just a fun time for the children to fellowship with each other. While I was waiting, I read the book, My Brother Sam is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier & Christopher Collier. It is a rather slow read, written in a dispassionate voice.

It takes place in Redding, Connecticut which was primarily a Tory town. The father was anti-war, and he brooked no argument from his sons on any issue. (The book hints at an interesting event in the father's life but did not develop it.) When his oldest son comes home from Yale wearing the uniform of Captain Benedict Arnold's troops, he forbids him to go and they get in a fight over it. The younger son is around 10, although I'm not sure his age is ever revealed. His friend is 10 though.

The main point of the story, as explained by the authors, was to show that war, and the reasons for it (any war), is very complicated. The final message (again by their own words in the afterword) was to leave an anti-war message. Since the storyteller in the book was the boy, it revealed the confusion in his mind as to what was occurring. That was the main success of the book, I think.

As I read the book, I became concerned that my children would not be interested in it because the voice is very passive, a retelling of something long since gone and of no great import. Excuse me? The Revolutionary War shaped our nation--it was of great import to all sides. England took a terrible loss, leading to their decline as the world power, our nation was formed, and our government and people were shaped by it. As this book attempted to show, nearly everyone was impacted in some way or other.

I began to seriously object to the book when at a chapter when Sam has left his post and come back to see the neighbor girl, Betsy. She suddenly appears to have been a love interest but not one his parents have any knowledge of. Normally, they would have been very accommodating of her being at their tavern/store, but they were not. They didn't seem to approve or disapprove of her as they would have a girlfriend. This particular setting is one where Sam is sitting on the ground with Betsy. Interesting. Wouldn't it have been difficult for her to have sat on the ground in the clothing she would likely have been wearing?

A short while later, Tim (the younger brother) sets out to take a message that is presumably a spy message from a Tory to someone in a town quite a distance away. Far enough that it would take 5 hours there and 5 hours back. He's doing it on the sly, and the person he is doing it for knows he does not have his father's approval. Again, would that really have happened? The gentleman was respected in the community as was Tim's father. Both were Tory.

On the way, he meets up with Betsy who is also going that way to see Sam. That caused me a bit of a jump, because a young lady of 15 would not typically have been free long enough to make a 10-hour journey alone. No parent would have allowed it, nor would the work at home have allowed her enough time to be gone that long. Had there been a pressing reason, someone would have been with her for protection. There were known soldiers in the area, and 15-year-old girls would hardly have been safe on a lonely road with only occasional farmhouses along the way.

Betsy overpowers Tim to get the letter, but not without explicit profanity using the Father's name quite a lot. No young lady of decent upbringing would have used such language in that day, nor would Tim have calmly accepted it as status quo. He would have been shocked by it. From that point on, that type of language was used occasionally by the authors. Unfortunately, you hear it all the time today but not then. Certainly not by women who were of respectable families.

The authors make a slight apology for the language in an afterword type of chapter explaining how much of the book is true. They pretend that we really don't know exactly how the characters would have spoken. I found that interesting because a great deal is known about the etiquette, manners, and language of each region so I believe they simply did not want to take the time to research it more fully. Other authors have. Their main purpose seems to have been delivering an anti-war message.

This book could have done a better job of a) engaging the reader, and b) developing the people--they were shells. The authors had to tell us that Tim had grown up because of his increased responsibilities because they didn't show it. I do not understand why it was awarded the Newberry Honor Book award, but there are quite a few of recent years that have mystified me.

Another book I recommend much more highly for the targeted readers, showing the Tory viewpoint much more completely is Dear America: Love Thy Neighbor: The Tory Diary of Prudence Emerson, Green Marsh, Massachusetts, 1774. This was a much more complete portrayal from a Tory.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch

I'm still catching up on all the reading I should have done before I graduated from high school, let alone college! We have recently received a bunch of new books, some purchased one because of fond memories, some because they were highly recommended for historical studies.

One of the latter was the book, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, by Jean Lee Latham. It received the Newberry Award. I never realized that this book is about a real person. Okay, so mathematics was something I did, not something I thrived on doing. Nathaniel Bowditch was incredibly accomplished; he revolutionized the world of navigation. I believe this book is historical fiction, and an excellent example of it too!

One of my favorite parts is in the chapter titled Lunars and Moonlight. Mr. Derby, Captain Prince, and Nat Bowditch are discussing President Washington's address in his Eighth Annual Message to Congress when Mr. Derby reads some passages he had marked in his copy of the newspaper:

"To an active external Commerce, the protection of a Naval force is indispensable . . .
. . . it is in our experience that the most sincere Neutrality [to both England and France] is not a sufficient guard against the depredations of Nations at War. To secure respect to a Neutral Flag, requires a Naval force, organized, and ready to vindicate it from insult or aggression. This may even prevent the necessity of going to War."
This passage jumped out at me because it is such wise counsel, even for our times.

I'm excited to introduce my kids to this book. I think we'll start it as a read aloud. Hopefully the kids will snatch it while I'm not looking! The one thing I noticed is that it is worth graphing the characters as you read it. I got a little lost on who was who. I'll lay it out as I read it to my kids. I think a strength of it is that it incites the reader to study more and learn more on a wider variety of subjects. Nat Bowditch used his time wisely and learned all he could so he was ready when opportunities came. Wonderful counsel for anyone who is a student, no matter what the age.

Another book I just finished was Watch for a Tall White Sail, by Margaret E. Bell. It takes place in Alaska in the late 1800s. It is a wonderful romantic fictional tale and one I loved as a teen. However, I don't think I'll read it to my boys. They might surprise me and enjoy it, but I think we have other books that they'll enjoy more! :-) I still love romantic novels with no foul language, no profane use of of the Lord's name, just boy meets girl set in adventure. The way romances should be. One day my daughter will enjoy it too.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day meme

I saw this on another blog and decided to do it. Heck, I'm still up at an unreasonable hour so my judgement could be cloudy. It's in honor of Labor Day and is about...well, labor. And not the kind you get a day off for, either. Check out Rocks in My Dryer for more.

How long were your labors?

Kid #1 and 2 (twins), 2 days. From about 8:00 a.m. one day to 6:30 p.m. the next
Kid #3, 8 or 9 hours

How did you know you were in labor?

Kid #1 and 2, I went in to be induced.
Kid #2, I had contractions during night although they weren't very strong.

Where did you deliver?

At a hospital.


Had 2 epidurals for my twins. The first one wore off. Tried to do #3 naturally but fought the contractions too hard. My husband finally suggested I try the drugs. Otherwise, I might still be there!


None. Doctor number one was a trouper. He knew I didn't want a C-section so he kept watch over me closely but allowed me to go through with it. Twin B presented breech. He wanted to take no chances with him getting twisted so brought him down immediately after Twin A was born. No incidents.

Who delivered?

Doctors. I loved my first one, but was turned off by the newer practice of multiple doctors in the office for my little girl. It was really scary to me that my least favorite one might deliver my baby. When we first called in, she was the one on call. Thankfully, she was not by the time we got to the hospital. I may have been better off with her though; the one that delivered my daughter did not make a good enough episiotomy (sp?). I kept trying to tell her the baby would be big; she didn't believe me and I paid dearly for it!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Reading booklist---check!

Lately, I have been creating an American history targeted reading list to accompany our studies from The World of Capt. John Smith, by Genevieve Foster. I want to foster a Thomas Jefferson style educational forum for our homeschool.

Since I am a newbie at this, I make absolutely no claims at doing it "right". My primary goal is to study history in a world context, asking questions, and investigating more. Complimentary to that is a fervent desire to feed my children's love of history and prepare them for their place in the world. I want to create an environment where they love to pursue learning and then apply and explain it to someone else. I also want them to know my views and my reasons for them. I am a firm believer in understanding why.

I believe in our day it is important to raise our children to ask questions and know how to go about answering those questions. I believe it is critical that they understand history so that they can avoid the pitfalls other generations have chosen to their detriment. Even though at the moment I really wish my son would stop arguing with me about everything, I want him to learn to study out those things that are important and then decide if he wants to argue about it. That doesn't include whether or not he's going to do the dishes. :-)

Which takes me back to my original point. I stopped our book list at 2 1/2 pages. Most of the books on the booklist have boys as the main character. I'm no dummy; my boys are struggling with having to listen to an audio dramatization of The Secret Garden. The Konos discussion that goes with The Secret Garden is richly detailed into a look into human natures and how they change so that will be a good introductory into how we will be studying the other books this year.

The list also includes books that are more on my daughter's level and viewpoint too. They have girls as the leading character so she has a balance too. She loves The Secret Garden; she wanted to finish listening to it tonight although she patiently waited because her brothers are gone tonight at a Scout campout.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I Will Survive--Homeschool Version

Go here for a wonderful video!

Originally written and produced by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris
Originally performed by Gloria Gaynor
Mercilessly altered with apologies by Natalie Criss
(copied this from here)

First I was afraid
I was petrified.
Kept thinking I could never teach
’Cause I’m not certified.
But we spent so many nights
Reteaching homework that was wrong.
I grew strong,
so now I teach my kids at home!
We study math
and outer space.
I just kept on despite the fear
with a big smile across my face.
I bought a set of Base Ten blocks.
I bought books with answer keys.
My parents think we’re nuts,
but they don’t even bother me

Come on, let’s go walk out the door.
We’re on the road now,
'cause we’re not home much anymore
My friends would frown and say we’d be unsocialized.
I heard one grumble
that I’d give up by July.
Oh no, not I!
I will survive!
As long as I know how to read
I know we’ll be alright.
I've got all my life to learn.
I've got energy to burn.
and I'll survive.
I will survive.

It took all the strength I had
not to fall apart.
Decided to attend
a play date at the local park,
and I met oh so many moms
who offered eagerly to help.
They used to cry.
Now they hold their heads up high,
and so do we!
My kids are cool!
They’re not those chained up little people
stuck inside at school.
So if you feel like dropping by
don't you expect us to be free
I'm spending my time learning
with my loving family!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Here's where we are at

I didn't realize I broke off so suddenly. I guess it was one of those times when I had a bunch of conversations going on in my head and with my husband and daughter . . . and assumed everyone else could read my mind. Oops.

In the 11th hour, almost literally, a cooperative educational group I have been working on for literally months came together. Friday night. I despaired too soon, and I am totally optimistic that this will accomplish most of the goals that I was reaching to the public school for. They will still fill in a few others, like speech therapy, for us. Here in the show-me state of Missouri, parents have easy access to school programs even if they homeschool.

I am taking Jewell into the school tomorrow for a hearing and vision eval in preparation for a speech eval. (Lots of evaluations, huh?) I am so relieved and heart happy. That's what was missing before. I was afraid of ruining my daughter if I kept her home another year, and they seemed so well equipped to do it all. My fears were quieted a great deal upon visiting with the staff, teacher, and principal, and I felt it would be a good solution. With this combination of solutions though, I finally feel the absolute peace of getting all the pieces together at once. It feels good.

Jewell informed me this morning that she wants to go lots of places this year. Her list includes the parks, the library, the nature center, and the zoo. Awesome! They were already on the list. The biggest thing is that she wants dearly to go!

Mornings will be strictly schoolwork for 4-5 hours except for Thursdays. Gymnastics happen Thursday mornings so that will be a field trip day. I am finding it is a nice relief to be able to say, "No, I can't do that then. We have school." After all, if I was teaching at that nice brick building a few blocks away, I would not be available. Previously, I felt g-u-i-l-t-y for saying no. I feel so light now where I was feeling so heavy. I am so thankful!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

No blogging for awhile

I am not going to be posting very often. We have taken a new look at our upcoming curriculum and plans and daily schedule and and and and and . . . .

So much for making my plans early!

We have realized that we need to change directions and that is going to take a lot of my time. It has been a turbulent several days, and dust is still settling. I might talk about it when no dust is in the air, but not yet.

I love you! Thank you for reading. This blog has helped me a great deal.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rough morning

Here's an article you may be interested interested in regarding privacy of your information via electronics commonly used today. That includes electronics from cell phones to GPS systems.

My daughter went to the Meet the Teacher this morning. We got home and reviewed all the information she received. It seems odd to need a hall pass to go to the bathroom! I know, I know, I had that too when I was in school but still..............

Afterward, I got home and saw announcements for activities starting next Monday in the homeschool email list. Argh!

S-man is having an extremely hard time with his sister going to school. She is his best buddy. I think he will probably be the one I'll send to meet her after school.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


It's night time now and I overheard my daughter telling her brothers that I'm making her go to school--that I never even asked her. She covered her mouth when I stepped in and asked her about it. I am so afraid of "making" her do either for me or anyone else. I thought she told me last night she wanted to go so I did all the paperwork, etc. today. She has met the school secretary, principal, and her teacher, while I thought that was what she had said she wanted.

We talked about it a little more---she is registered for school now so it could be nervousness---and I told her that it wasn't too late to change her mind but she needed to go to the Meet and Greet at school tomorrow. Once school starts, though, she needs to stay with it. Then she asked if she could just go until Jan. 1. I think she is looking for reinforcement that she won't be stuck if she doesn't like school.

Her primary reason is that she is upset about not being able to stay in gymnastics. Watching Olympic gymnastics has intensified her desire to excel there. To make it worse, the gym called to remind us the new semester begins Sept. 1. Then she plead to only stay in public school until Jan. 1. I think she is afraid of sealing shut her options and being stuck in something for a whole year. Hopefully, she will enjoy the whole year, but I felt very much that she wanted reassurance that she could still change her mind. I reassured her that we could talk about it at Christmas if she wanted to stop and that it would be possible to withdraw her--just a little stickier.

Then she wanted to know if she could still do the Campfire Girls. I am very leery of overcommitting when I have no idea how much homework she will bring home. She will have to pull earlier nights too so extracurricular activities need to wait.

The worst part is that I don't know if this is all just nerves talking or if I misunderstood and jumped too fast. Maybe she just wanted her own backpack and school supplies? That was another question she had--if she would have to return all that stuff if she didn't go to school.

The upshot is that she will go to the Meet and Greet tomorrow (and I think go through with the school thing) with the promise that she can go back to homeschooling at the beginning of the calendar year if she wants to.

However, there is one big thing about the school system in 3rd grade that I think is deplorable. They study "Social Studies" with not much history. Are you serious?! Shaundra and I will be reading American History aloud together in the evenings!!! Math can take a flying leap; history is far more important! (I wouldn't really cut math, but I wouldn't cut history either!)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Last chance---updated

I got some sobering news tonight. The co-op that I was counting on may or may not include other girls. The organizer is trying to get a firm decision from the other family tomorrow. We had worked so hard to put that together. I am very concerned about how few girls she is associating with. Unlike the boys, she has struggled with having girlfriends. The boys always had a crowd of boys, plus there were two of them. Now especially, social concerns are *not* a concern for them. But it is for my daughter. She really wants us to move to somewhere there are more girls in the neighborhood---she has repeatedly voiced that desire.

We are now facing the last days before school starts to decide whether my daughter will stay in homeschool, continue with gymnastics, and join Campfire girls, or go to school. It is her decision. Gymnastics is weighing in hard; it is a homeschool class so both cannot happen. I will also be contacting the other girls to find out if they will be continuing gymnastics as well. I'm pretty sure they are. We will go over tomorrow to walk through the school and talk to whomever we can talk to. She also has one last round of shots to get before the end of the week.

On top of her sadness for selling the van (up for sale), this comes as a momentous decision. We will be praying pretty hard about this, but we have to decide quickly and we are committed to doing what she wants. Then, if she goes, the shopping begins---ouch. If not, we're set for the year. We have more school supplies than you can shake a stick at but probably not the specific items required for 3rd grade at the neighborhood school. Definitely not the wardrobe either. What we don't need to spend on clothing, we more than make up for in supplies, books, and activities!

Next day: She decided to go to school so we spent a very harried day getting her registered and shopping. It makes me sad, but she is excited. It is a grand adventure for her, and I think there are some good things that will come of it.

Rote learning has its place---added

I mentioned before that my kids are doing math worksheets to the tune of 100 problems a day, and it seems to be helping. Sunday, S-man came up to my husband and asked him to quiz him. Surprised, my husband complied. S-man answered every single equation quickly. When Jim commented on it, S-man replied that, "Mom has been making us do worksheets every day." Jim asked if he liked it, and S-man quickly shook his head in the negative. "No, but it has sure been helping."

So much for theories. I remember a man in Kentucky who used to teach school telling me that kids are smart but they still needed to simply memorize a lot of "stuff" in the early years. Being the kind of kid (and adult) that always wanted to know why, I ignored his advice and taught the why. Maybe we were both right. My kids know why equations work the way they do; now they can rattle them off.

Now I'm borrowing a page from a very popular teacher of mine in high school. I'm giving them grammar worksheets to diagram. Somewhat more simple than the ones he handed out, but the principle is the same. Hopefully they will become more confident in diagramming too.

I'm also waiting for a second copy of The World of Captain John Smith, and I'm going to give my older two assignments to complete before we come together for discussion. They are ready to work more independently now, and it's history which is impossible to slow them down on anyway. They'll have the book read before we could do it together anyway. I had planned to read it and do activities together, but I think this will be more effective. I feel more energized about it anyway. That will give me more time to work with my daughter individually too, and I need to do that. She is beginning to complain that I do more with the boys which is probably true. There are two of them, but she needs/wants the company.


I realized after writing this post that I had previously tried to do the same thing with math but to little effect. I think there is a lot to be said for teaching the subject when the kids are ready. In the boys' case, I think they had to really understand the why before it finally came together for them. They also had to be ready for the increased seat work time. It's like everything finally came together: them understanding the need for it as well as how it all worked together.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Seasonal changes or not?

It seems very strange that only a couple of weeks ago we were pretty sure we would die if the air conditioner did not get fixed soon. Now it keeps threatening rain and is fairly cool. I'm wondering if the repair bill was worth it. Not this year, it seems! We used it constantly for about one week then started occasionally turning it on. Now it hasn't been on at all for about a week. It is definitely on the downside of August.

Just because it isn't overly hot, however, doesn't mean allergies aren't high. We have been running the attic fan most of the time just to keep the air moving, but we seem to be having earlier-than-usual runny noses and sneezing. Sigh. We're stocking up on allergy meds.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Our week

Yesterday my daughter and I cleaned our 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan. It is now up for sale although I'm thinking I need to clean the carpets. I found two spots that are in need of carpet cleaner. Otherwise it's in great shape and just over 24,000 miles.

Today we headed out to the homeschool Edufair to see what kind of exhibits there were and peruse the free curriculum. We arrived in time for an excellent and entertaining presentation by the Conservation Dept. It was excellent. The Stream Team was also there with a demonstration on streams, and the All Tribal Indian Center brought many artifacts and told some Native American tales. My daughter also painted a picture at the Arts and Crafts center. Of course, I came home with a couple of armloads of books that I think we can use this year. We missed the final drawing for a Dillons gift card because we were too hungry to stay!

A couple of days ago, my kids participated in a mock Olympics in their book club and then more swimming. The leader of the group always prepares so well for the kids. They had all read a couple of short books with an Olympic theme this summer: Hour of the Olympics (Magic Tree House) and Going for the Gold (Time Flyers series). I had never heard of the Time Flyers series, but my kids enjoy them. They are fairly quick reads so not discouraging. I was going to say, "Even for my daughter," but she just finished Winn Dixie so that doesn't apply!

Our 100-math-problems-a-day has been going well with no groans. J-Dawg was a bit put out when he learned his brother and sister both got 100% yesterday while he missed one. He was especially disgusted when he saw the one he missed. Regardless, I bumped them all up a level. They are getting faster solving them, and that is the primary goal.

Now I need to go prepare dinner. Have a great evening!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Capitalism and charity

As I was checking my email this morning, I ran across an article about why capitalism and charity truly go hand in hand. The main point that I agree with wholeheartedly is that anyone who wants to succeed in a capitalistic society must help others do the same.

I tried to write a quick summary of the whole article (it is lengthy), but I failed miserably in my view. So......please go to the link to read it. It is worth a read, or at least a scan to pick up the major points if you are in a hurry.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The day's plans happened---that's all I'll give it

Today was not what I would term an outstanding success. The kids were looking at me like, "Are we done yet?" the entire time. When we launched into Astronomy, S-man asked, "Are we going to do something fun?" Nope, just read and learn together. After spending quite a bit of time with dissecting a poem and then reviewing English grammar, he was giving up the day as hopeless.

As he asked if we were going to do something fun for Science today, I realized that the day seemed very dry indeed. Science, of all things, should be more active! Is it Janice VanCleave that has the science books with activities? Somehow, I think it should be just a tad more pertinent. Everything around us is amazing; why should it just be something we read about in books?

As for dissecting poetry, I think dd is more attuned to that. Maybe I'll save it for her and break my boys in slowly. It figures; she's the word freak like her mom! I admit that I got really excited to discover the parallel between the message of the poem Skating, by Herbert Asquith, and the rhyming form. My daughter read it to hubby tonight at dinner. I made S-man read it to me out loud because I didn't think he was paying any attention to my instructions on how to read it and the significance of the form. He proved me wrong; I guess he's like the boys that Andrew Pudewa spoke about. He drove me to distraction, but he got the point.

I think it's good that we'll be doing Olympic-style activities tomorrow, including swimming! Maybe we can mix some Classical-style education with unschooling more often. Enough Classical to keep better records and enough unschooling to be interesting.

P.S. Check out this post. I especially liked the "are homeschoolers weird" one. That's something I've been thinking about lately. I agree that we're weird, and I think that is okay.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Wednesday--successes and questions

My post about how boys learn got quoted in 3 Steps to Homeschooling Success. I haven't been through her whole site, but I have a lot to chew on already! Diane has a book you can download for free too.

Today the kids did their math worksheets as usual first thing in the morning. It's part of their wake-up-get-dressed-make-bed-complete 100 problems routine. It isn't hard math, just review to get them faster on their feet in the basics. Later, I took them outside where I had drawn 1 foot by 1 foot boxes with numbers and had them solve addition equations by walking out the answers. I'm hoping it will connect their bodies and minds together. The boys had a ball racing each other and seeing how far they could jump. Right now, we're reviewing addition and I'm not sure how I'll do it when we get to multiplication. It will take longer to draw the boxes!

Other than that, we did more inactive assignments. J-Dawg struggled with being still although he was the first one done with the assignment. He left and started shooting K'nex arrows all over the living room.

S-man had a harder time with the instructions but got it done once he finally understood what I wanted. I need to figure out a better way to explain instructions because that seems to be our weak point.

My daughter was trying to decide whether to finish her lunch or do the assignment first. Eventually both were completed after I lost patience with her. (She is learning to knit and had knitted through lunch and storytime.) Both boys were off reading and playing with K'nex while she finished up.

We haven't yet launched into American History since I'm waiting to get the newer routines firmly established. Getting our kids into history is a cake walk. I also need to set a book list for the kids to choose their books from.

I'm also thinking about getting the Apologia Astronomy text to go along with the Konos study. Can anyone give me suggestions/recommendations as to the advisability of that? Is that good for active boys? We have the Flying text but never got off the ground with it although I think the boys read some to most of it.

On the other hand, I just discovered S-man is fascinated with Africa right now so maybe I need to direct him toward doing a special study of Africa. Obviously our agenda is not set yet.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Konos---I'm loving it

If I had known back when I started homeschooling how much I would like Konos, I would have saved so much time! Then again, they didn't have the Konos in a Bag programs yet, and I didn't think I had the budget to buy the big book. I wish I had known how spot on it would be for us. I would have done summer daycare to have paid for it!

Konos is a classical, hands-on approach to learning, and it is clicking! Today was day 1 for the new year, and I am ever so pleased. Our Critical Learning project didn't work as planned, but that's okay. I think they got the idea, but even if they didn't, the rest of it made up for that lack.

Grammar was fun. We did some run-around labeling activities to identify nouns around the house. I need some more practice with the literature selections. Unfortunately, we have slipped on poetry so we have exposure issues to work on.

I'm really working backwards here because the first thing we did was read the Creation account in the King James Version (KJV) Genesis 1. We made it through the creationary day 4 because we are working on identifying and marking the key ideas as a precursor to note taking. Day 1 is going to stretch into Day 2 because we didn't read the whole chapter. In previous years, I have taken whole quarters for that chapter!!! Then too, we worked on nouns but not pronouns. That's okay though. They need mastery, not a cursory glance. The overall intent of reading the Creation account is to establish the sense of order in this Earth's organization, hence the thrust of this unit study.

We pursued that thought further. The Lord didn't explain all the steps he took to create this Earth---I believe he wants to encourage us to learn by study as well as by faith---but he consistently shows prophets the order of Creation. We talked about how he is a God of order, not of chaos. His prophets were expected to act according to the order he ordained, and the gospel the Savior established when he was on earth carried the same order. Thus the gospel today must have the same order because He is a God of order.

In review, I am really thankful this unit study came into my hands. It is making all the difference!

Immediate plans finalized

As of 1:00 a.m., I know what I am going to be doing curriculum-wise for the next month. I will be using the Classic Character Curriculum from Konos on Orderliness. It is a unit study covering everything but math for grades K-8 so all three of my children are included. It teaches plants, animals and rocks, planets, and the solar system.

Since this is the book that the co-op we are joining will be using, we are going to get a start on it now. They will be starting at the animal classification, skipping the solar system. While my boys have studied the solar system intensely, my daughter has not. The literature selections and grammar lessons work for all three as well. Ah, the advantage of unit studies!

Once we have begun studying with the co-op, we will hopefully begin our history unit study. I need to buy 2 more copies of The World of Captain John Smith so each child has their own before I can do that the way I want to. The more I look at the Konos curriculum, the more I am okay with pursuing that for now though. It is an impressive, well-rounded course of study, and it will prepare my children for what they will learn to do studying the history text.

We are also evaluating whether we have time to pursue another co-op that we are currently associated with. I need to get the reading list for it before we decide.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Wish I may, wish I might . . .

On my wishlist: The newly published Joseph Smith Papers, a scholarly work based on Joseph Smith's life.

Otherwise, I have my calendar out and am busy planning the next couple of months.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


The Heart of the Matter virtual homeschooling conference is happening this weekend, and it has been awesome!

The best class for me was the last one yesterday. It was by Andrew Pudewa from the Institute for Excellence in Writing, titled Teaching Boys Who Would Rather Be Building Forts. Awesome title, eh?

Did you know that boys and girls are wired differently? Literally neurologically differently. Read Why Gender Matters.

Here are some practical differences including reasons boys and girls don't do well in the same classroom. Now I finally know why I chose to homeschool my boys and am more ambivalent about my daughter. In words not just feelings.

For example, boys don't hear quiet sounds. They don't ignore me. They just don't hear me. Pudewa suggested that if both boys and girls are in a classroom, the teacher should seat the boys on one side and the girls on the other and then stand in front of the boys so they can hear. He said many boys don't do well in school because they cannot hear the teacher. I thought of the wiggly boys in Primary trying to hear quiet women's voices. He also suggested that if our sons cannot sit still to do math, have them stand up to do it. See further down for more reasons.

Boys optimum learning temperature is 68 - 69 degrees. Girls is 74-75 degrees. Note to self: keep heat low this winter and have dd and me bundle up.

Boys eyes have more m-cells which are connected to rods. They tend to track speed and motion. Girls have more p-cells connected to cones which track color and texture. Do you know a boy that draws with black and attempts to draw action? I do! Boys draw verbs in black; girls draw nouns in full color.

That sums up boys in language arts: they recognize verbs. Girls see nouns and descriptors. So when a boy writes a story with info left out, I can't instruct him on adjectives and adverbs. He suggested something like, "Great story. Let's add some action."

How they handle emotions like being upset: Boys stomp around and make lots of noise. They need to stand up if they are upset because they think better on their feet, moving around. So don't make them sit down to talk about it. They can't if you want them to work through it. If a girl is upset, you have to go find her first. He suggested that you can usually find her on the couch with a blanket pulled over her head. Her bedroom in our case. No need to search for a boy unless he took off on his bike.

Related info: Boys react to pain with an increase of blood flow to the cortex. He suggested letting them hurt each other or they will hurt themselves. He recommended explaining to them that girls do not do well with pain so they need to take it out on each other, not on girls! I realized that in our society of today with so many women in positions of responsibility, we don't allow our boys the freedom to do this. How many times have I told my boys to stop wrestling before they get hurt? Shame on me! I'll clear valuables next time (what few I have left.) They have never been badly hurt. (Fight or flight very clear here!)

Related to this info, he told us that boys have to learn interesting, relevant, and applicable information. They see no reason for anything else. Pudewa said the most important motivator was to teach things that were intrinsically relevant. Those things are naturally interesting. He commented that knives and swords are universally interesting to boys. "They will invent them if the never see them." How many moms can attest to that? Keep swords and guns out of the house, and a boy will invent them out of a stick!

If we try to teach our boys something that is not that intrinsically relevant but must be learned, he noted that creative teachers will invent games. But he noted that they must have positive and negative results, otherwise the boys might decide it's not worthwhile and decide to opt out. For example, a teacher might give him a penny for every right answer, but he must pay the teacher $1.00 if he does not play. The rewards must be physical, not mental or emotional. Girls need those, not boys.

No wonder the few all-boys schools in this country have exceptional records. We need more!

Oh yeah, Pudewa suggested martial arts training for teaching boys discipline and focus. Boys have inherently short attention spans, and it helps them develop longer ones. It helps all the way around! I know boys whose parents enrolled them in taekwondo to help them with dyslexia, and it does. He also suggested reading the book, The Five Love Languages.

As I listened to the speaker, I realized anew that those people who have spent the last who-knows-how-long trying to change boys have failed. They have only weakened and shamed boys. When we consciously understand and value boys again, we will change our world. That is fodder for another post though as it relates to another topic.

Oops! The conference is about ready to start!

See here for notes of yesterday's conference in brief.