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.