Thursday, October 22, 2009

A quick note

As for science: We're trying a little LifePac for 8th grade. Only comment? Hmmm....withholding judgment. I'll decide by the end of the first book. Not sure why I got the first 4th grade book; my daughter is already studying solar systems rather than plants. By the way, you can buy LifePacs a book at a time from Alpha and Omega Publishing for those who want to try it and see or simply don't have the money to buy it all at once. The biggest difference is in the shipping costs.

Now for a bit of humor-filled encouragement/advice for those "rebellious" firebrand homeschooling families, a cute post from Lee Binz.

Friday, October 2, 2009

From science to World Wars

As I mentioned previously, we are studying the book World War I as an additional study to the boys' co-op classes. This book studies the causes of World War I and how it built into World War II.

In the book, the author recommends viewing several movies directed by Frank Capra as propoganda for the war, and he gives some things to watch for (like the music) and how they affect the viewer.

I have been trying to figure out how to do this course, and others, at as little cost as possible so I was thrilled to find several of the recommended movies at the local library. This has been something we have talked about off and on for a long time, especially as it relates to textbook authors. Hopefully it will bring home the idea that we need to figure out who the media author is trying to accomplish whether their medium is newspaper, internet, movies, etc.

P.S. The technical side of me emerges: When typing World War I or II, use a capital I (as in the letter immediately following H in the alphabet) instead of a number 1. If you use the number one, World War number 2 becomes World War number 11. There really weren't 10 wars in between!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Density part 2

Today we learned that density measures how tightly atoms are packed together.

Democritus believed 1) all matter is made of atoms, 2) differences in atoms were in shape and size, 3) atoms were indestructible, and 4) atoms were in constant motion.

Of the four, scientists have proven that 1 and 4 are true. We know that atoms are basically the same shape and are limited in size. Over 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms can be on the head of a pin. Now, would someone tell me in English what number that is?

We also know that atoms are destructible because we split atoms to create atomic bombs and nuclear energy.

Next, we experimented to test the theory that atoms are in constant motion using a bottle of hot and a bottle of cold water to disperse food coloring. I think we have all done this at some point (we have).

The blue dye is in the cold water, demonstrating that atoms in cold water move more slowly than in hot (the green). Both eventually completely mix. Interestingly, the yellow dye mixed in the cold water much more quickly than the blue. Any guesses as to why? I'm not sure. Is it because we can't see the yellow as easily or is there a difference in the density of the colors?

On another note, here's a picture of my daughter working in a workbook.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Atoms in a historical context

We finally leaped head first into Science. Being naturally disinclined to follow instructions exactly, I am using the Apologia text, Exploring Creation with General Science as a guide. Their approach to science is historical which is right down our ally! We'll deviate somewhat later because some of the history it presents I think is contradicted elsewhere so we'll be learning about that too.

The text opens with a brief introduction of Imhotep (eem' oh tep) from ancient Egypt around 2650 B.C. adding the note "most historians agree that the heart of Egyptian medicine was trial and error" and that a very important reason the Egyptians were so advanced in the art of medicine was because they had papyrus. They wrote everything down.

For example, they learned that they could get open wounds to heal quickly and cleanly by applying moldy bread on it. Sounds gross, right? Of course, most of us know that moldy bread produces penicillin, and that's why it worked. Back in ancient Egypt, they just wanted to know what worked, not particularly why.

Next, we learned that Greek scientists were the earliest "true" scientists that we know about. They systematically collected facts and observations and then used them to explain the natural world.

The Greeks we learned about were Thales, Anaximander (an axe' uh man der), and Anaximenes (an axe' uh me nees), followed by Leucippus (lew sip' us). He is called the "father of atomic theory". Much more is known about his student Democritus (duh mah' crit us)who continued the study of atoms.

I really liked the visual illustration Democritus used to explain atoms. He used the analogy of sand to explain atoms, likening the atoms to grains of sand. Quoting from the book, it says, "Think about walking towards a sandy beach. When you are a long way from the beach, the sand looks like a smooth, yellow blanket. As you get closer to the beach, you might notice that there are bumps and valleys in the sand, but the sand still looks solid. When you reach the beach and actually kneel down and examine the sand, you find that it is not solid at all. Instead, it is composed of tiny particles called 'grains'."

The experiment was simple enough. We put canola oil, water, and corn syrup in a glass and saw what happened. Then we dropped in a cork, rock, ice cube, and a grape and observed what happened. Such as it is, here's the picture from my point and shoot camera:

It's hard to make out the picture, especially through the fish, but the corn syrup was on the bottom, water in the middle, oil on top. If you look closely, you can see different textures in the liquid. The cork (brown) floated on the oil, ice (look at the nose of the largest fish) on the water, grape (see the purple blob?) on the corn syrup, and rock on the bottom.

Afterward, we discussed how the experiment illustrated the theory of atoms. Briefly, we learned that the amount each object sank has to do with the density of the atoms in each item.

Tomorrow we will be discussing a bit more about Democritus and atomic motion with another experiment. It will also be much shorter lesson since we covered twice as much material as normal today.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

What makes a good education?

I received this on a homeschooling email list I'm on and found it to contain some good standards for all parents to measure their own and their children's education. I hope you enjoy it.

You won't find "takes honors classes," "gets good grades," or "attends only Ivy League schools" on John Taylor Gatto's list of qualities of an educated person. Gatto taught in New York City schools for 30 years and was named New York State's Teacher of the Year, but his experiences convinced him that what students need is less time in classrooms and more time out in the world. Building character and community, Gatto argues, is more valuable than learning from tired textbooks and rigid lesson plans.

Really educated people ...

Establish an individual set of values but recognize those of the surrounding community and of the various cultures of the world.

Explore their own ancestry, culture, and place.

Are comfortable being alone, yet understand dynamics between people and form healthy relationships.

Accept mortality, knowing that every choice affects the generations to come.

Create new things and find new experiences.

Think for themselves; observe, analyze, and discover truth without relying on the opinions of others.

Favor love, curiosity, reverence, and empathy rather than material wealth.

Choose a vocation that contributes to the common good.

Enjoy a variety of new places and experiences but identify and cherish a place to call home.

Express their own voice with confidence.

Add value to every encounter and every group of which they are a part.

Always ask: "Who am I? Where are my limits? What are my possibilities?"

Friday, September 4, 2009

Learning to use time wisely

I'm beginning to believe that this year will be the time my children learn to use their time wisely (or drive their mother crazy!) Seriously, everything seems to be going back to that and it's not being an easy lesson for them.

One of the things we have done this year is left the everyone together, unit study model. My daughter would probably do better with that, but the boys are pursuing somewhat different interests. Mostly they want to establish their own identities. In that sense, it must be challenging to be a twin.

One of the things I have done is bought each of them a cheap day planner with their assignments. Their co-op is driving that need somewhat, but it's also necessary because I can't keep track of 3 people's assignments anymore. I can make the assignments for what we're doing here at home and I can help, but they have to follow the schedule.

Yesterday, they searched frantically for those planners because I told them they had to get everything completed before they went to bed. Maybe they are starting to get the lesson?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

First day of co-op

Tuesday was our first day of our new co-op. The kids were all a bit worried/anxious/scared to go, but they loved it once they got there. The spirit there was so good: an eagerness to learn. Sure, the older kids tried to play it cool, but they obviously had no problem with completing the homework assignments.

My own kids came home jazzed! They were all abuzz with telling about their day and the things they had learned. Steven was especially excited about his Medieval History and World War I classes and could not stop talking about them. He wanted to know if he could read the Uncle Eric book about WW I book that I just bought.

Jewell felt very important telling about her classes and her homework. The idea of having homework was awesome to her, and she related the details of her experience.

James was just on a different plane. He was totally happy with the whole experience.

Me? It was a good day, but I've got my work cut out for me to prepare eight lessons on Famous Americans for 2nd graders. Discovering Great Books is going to be fun too. My most spiritual class, though, was with the "Walkers". You know, the children who are upwardly mobile but still not very old. I had the distinct impression that I was holding some of Heavenly Father's most special spirits.

It was a good day!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

We call it incentives

So far I'm on schedule for the year. The changing ideas/curriculums schedule. We've been going for about a month and some things that were not on the calendar (like finishing merit badges so the boys can get their Eagles) are gaining priority. Interestingly, some of them are working into their core learning plans (good phrase, huh) very nicely.

Core learning plans. In the next few days, I will be recording all the things I think the kids should learn this year with the things I anticipate will be coming available in our community to begin our core learning plans. A checklist of sorts. Then I will sit down with each one to find out what they want to learn about. I already know Jewell wants to learn about the circulatory system. Then I'll categorize them into major groups: Math, English grammar, writing, reading, history, social studies, science, P.E., music, art, etc. so when it comes time to make out progress reports, I'll have a cumulative score to record on a boring report card. Just for the state.

James just told me he has a need for a report card that he can show to someone else---his taekwondo master---so he can get patches up his leg on his uniform pants for good grades. Sounds good. Better blackmail too. He'll work harder for a patch than a letter on a piece of paper. Right now, the boys are busy reading because they have a report due tomorrow if they want to go camping/wakeboarding this weekend with the Scouts. We call these things incentives, not blackmail. :-)

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I so oopsed! I planned out our year's curriculum and forgot to take into account what the kids would be doing at co-op.

For example, we were going to study U.S. History and Western Hemisphere Geography. I just bought some of the workbooks I was missing.

Steven is taking World War I and Medieval History at co-op for the first semester, and World War II and Medieval History for the second semester. James is only taking World Geography (for which I do not have the book and just helped another co-op member check out the last copy from the lending library last week.) Don't look for the logic in courses; there isn't any. The boys are totally responsible for their selections for all but writing. The only bright spot is that all of them will count for high school credit while my original history plan would not.

I knew writing would be handled with or without me so I was going to let it be without me. I knew that because I signed Steven up for Creative Writing with some persuasion from his dad, and James, Excellence in Writing. However, we need to scamper on grammar in the next few weeks since neither one is very strong in that!

Thankfully Photography and Health & Fitness don't require much preparation from home.

So now? Home schoolwork, beyond assignments from co-op, wil include grammar, science (why oh why didn't I insist on that as a co-op topic?), and math. Easy Grammar, Apologia General Science (next year we'll do the co-ops), and Teaching Textbooks Math.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Teacher planning day

You know that beautiful public school creation called teacher's planning day?

Today was one. There were tickets to buy to see the Ahn Trio next month, emails to send, emails to read (only 36 more to go), blogs and forums to catch up on, merit badges to sew on, merit badges to work on (personal fitness almost done), history reading to complete, headlines to read, and public schools to notify.

The kids? The boys watched the History Channel's program called Navajo Code Talkers, worked on their Personal Fitness logs, and went to TKD and weapons training. Scouts tonight. Steven went for a lengthy bike ride before I got up this morning. (I need to get up earlier!)

Shaundra worked on an educational computer program, watched a movie, and is building something with K'nex now. The two of us will go to TKD tonight.

For being unproductive, some things were accomplished after all.

P.S. Shaundra just brought in the Eiffel Tower built out of K'nex.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Lending libraries

Lately I've been volunteering at the local homeschooler's lending library. It is a really great thing that a local homeschoolers' association has put together, and they even have a place to put the library. A local church has allowed them to use the attic of an old building they have. It has truly been a blessing to the homeschooling community.

In Kentucky, the association we belonged to had a lending library like this, but it wasn't nearly as big, nor did it have a permanent dwelling place unless you call boxes permanent.

When I first went to the lending library here, the attic was extremely hot and stuffy; now they have air conditioning and more books. They are still struggling with organization issues though. Reminds me of our home library........

Still, it has been a huge blessing for us this year. I have had to buy very few books thanks to them. Because they are a non-profit, charitable organization, I have also donated lots of books back! (Tax deductions, you know.)

Being a book fiend, I have to buy books though. It's the stuff of life!

P.S. Why do I always come home tired? Is it because I stand the entire time, and the lighting isn't terrific?

Friday, July 31, 2009

My favorite book

I have a long-standing love affair with dictionaries. Not that I have ever read one from cover to cover, but I usually get caught by something in a dictionary on my way to a specific definition.

When I worked at Thiokol, I received a dictionary that had a chart of all the world's known major language families. When I changed departments, I took the dictionary with me. When I was layed off, the only non-human thing I missed was my dictionary. When I'd had enough of the task at hand, I loved to wander through it for a few minutes for a break.

Yesterday I received my latest $5 e-bay purchase.

This was definitely a used copy because there are marker lines on the top of the front and a couple of names written on the inside front cover. The inside, however, was pristine. Even the pages had a new-ish feel and no markings at all.

We have had a couple of children's dictionaries for the last 8 or 9 years---longer than the kids could read---and I really enjoyed them. Lately, however, the boys have had to use our big red Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. For the record, I have always disliked collegiate editions. In my opinion, they do a lousy job of defining words or just about anything else. (I think that a dictionary that uses the word to define itself is pretty bad.) Don't ask me why I bought it. It wasn't a cheap paperback! For the record, the cheap paperback from college that it replaced was pretty good!

This intermediate dictionary is fun to read because it gives word histories, synonyms, etc., and uses white space effectively so your eye doesn't go batty (like the collegiate one we own.)

Final rating: 5 thumbs up (out of 5)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

More changes

I am very blessed to have a homeschool lending library in town, and I took advantage of it this year. I've gotten really gunshy at buying curriculum; I've bought too much that didn't work for us!

The library operates on donations and $1 per book rented. You check them out for one year---it's a steal! A local church donates the space in its attic for its use. How awesome is that? One of the volunteers told me that they are concerned because they have lost 500 books this year (and the shelves are still crammed full!) They finally have a good tracking system, but it still gets crazy when people are returning books and checking them out at the same time!

I checked out about 11 books last week, and then went back this week to help. I learned a lot about different viewpoints of various curriculums, found some new materials and, of course, changed some of my selections. Because I gave 3 hours, I was able to check out 3 books for free. Since I'm thinking about returning about 4 of last week's selections, it will probably work out for both sides! I'll be back to help next week again because there are some other materials I'd like to try. I'm so grateful they have this!

While I was there this week, I met Gwen from another county and learned about a program called Easy Grammar. After browsing through it after closing, I decided to bring it home. I really like it! It's just grammar, nothing else, but it looks excellent (and doable with boys. Very important.)

Another think I decided was to continue my eclectic approach to science. This year, the boys need to do physical science so everything will revolve around that. Science is easy to use for multiple ages/children unless it is textbook based!

With those changes, it looks like the only textbooks I'll be using is history and literature. Lit covers American authors and frankly, textbooks are probably the easiest way to get a survey of a good representative population of authors/poets.

Finally, I asked the kids when they wanted to start school. Their answer?

"How about this afternoon after we get back from our bike ride?"


Ummmm, too soon. I'm not ready for summer to be over!

Monday, July 20, 2009


I'm feeling mind boggled by science and realizing how closely tied science and math are. My sons are not doing algebra yet so that is limiting our options somewhat.

While I have the Apologia text, I think I might swing back to the original idea of doing Janice Van Cleave's Biology. That would make my non-scientific life ever so much easier!!!

It would cut down the boys' textbook load too. That could be a plus. Maybe make the Apologia text extra credit???

I only listed my sons' curriculum for next year in the previous post. Here is Jewell's list:

Jamestown Heritage Readers (Reading)
Abeka: The History of Our United Sates
Rod and Staff: Building with Diligence
Scripture Study for Latter-Day Saint Families
Janice Van Cleave's Biology for Every Kid
Discovery Education (for Science)

Why do I think I'm missing something?

Does anyone have experience with Rod and Staff? I've never used it, but it has been highly recommended to me, and I like their texts. Also, I'm wide open to recommendations for Science.

P.S. In my search for a link to Janice Van Cleave's book, I found the Discovery link with lesson plans (and course descriptions.) I think that might our direction for the year. Not quite as limiting.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Homeschooling through high school

Here we are, poised to begin 8th grade, realizing that we are on the precipice called high school. That thought makes me tremble to realize that my sons are growing up! They really, really are.

On the other hand, that is making me refocus like never before, taking more time to prepare for the year. I am setting up our school to deal with high school transcripts, college applications, and scholarship apps. Translated, that means I'm trying more of a textbook approach with some real books thrown in (of course!) Thanks to a local lending library, I have bought very little. I'm renting the books I'm using for a $1 fee per book for the year. I am so thankful, especially since that is allowing me to use some resources that I'm not familiar with. Hopefully it will help us get to where I want to be by next June---ready for high school.

Here's a rundown of what I'm looking at:

Apologia Exploring Creation With General Science
Janice Van Cleave Biology (not sure)
Rod and Staff English
Abeka Literature: Of Places
Abeka History: America, Land I Love
Scripture Study for Latter Day Saint Families

The boys will be going to a local co-op as well, taking classes from World War I and II to Photography, including a Creative Writing course for one and the Excellence in Writing course for the other. I'm operating from memory on this, though, so I might be correcting myself later.

My daughter will be in the usual 4th grade classes, including Art, Music, History, and Science (I think). Besides that, she will be studying from Abeka's History of the United States and Rod and Staff's English.

Additionally, we will continue with taekwondo for the whole family. Good for leadership and PE!

Need I say that we'll be busy? If anyone has experience with any of these courses with tips to share, I'd love to hear them! I have also run across Lee Binz' site and some of her freebies like How to homeschool through a financial storm. Thanks to her, I realized that with a little work, I could use their home business of mowing lawns as a course in Entrepreneurship that could receive high school credit!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Some math games

Here's a link for some fun games you can use to reinforce math concepts. Or cut and paste this:

I will NOT leave on a negative note!

Try this YouTube video! It's great!

Sound of Music: Central Station Antwerp (Belgium)

Did you see the couple enjoying the performance together? Love it!!!

So what do you think?

This was emailed to me---just when I figured I was going to kick the depression of watching the political arena. What do you think about this? (I cut and paste this from my email with no editing.)

It's Not An Option

By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Wednesday, July 15, 2009 4:20 PM PT

Congress: It didn't take long to run into an "uh-oh" moment when reading the House's "health care for all Americans" bill. Right there on Page 16 is a provision making individual private medical insurance illegal.

When we first saw the paragraph Tuesday, just after the 1,018-page document was released, we thought we surely must be misreading it. So we sought help from the House Ways and Means Committee.

It turns out we were right: The provision would indeed outlaw individual private coverage. Under the Orwellian header of "Protecting The Choice To Keep Current Coverage," the "Limitation On New Enrollment" section of the bill clearly states:

"Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day" of the year the legislation becomes law.

So we can all keep our coverage, just as promised — with, of course, exceptions: Those who currently have private individual coverage won't be able to change it. Nor will those who leave a company to work for themselves be free to buy individual plans from private carriers.

From the beginning, opponents of the public option plan have warned that if the government gets into the business of offering subsidized health insurance coverage, the private insurance market will wither. Drawn by a public option that will be 30% to 40% cheaper than their current premiums because taxpayers will be funding it, employers will gladly scrap their private plans and go with Washington's coverage.

The nonpartisan Lewin Group estimated in April that 120 million or more Americans could lose their group coverage at work and end up in such a program. That would leave private carriers with 50 million or fewer customers. This could cause the market to, as Lewin Vice President John Sheils put it, "fizzle out altogether."

What wasn't known until now is that the bill itself will kill the market for private individual coverage by not letting any new policies be written after the public option becomes law.

The legislation is also likely to finish off health savings accounts, a goal that Democrats have had for years. They want to crush that alternative because nothing gives individuals more control over their medical care, and the government less, than HSAs.

With HSAs out of the way, a key obstacle to the left's expansion of the welfare state will be removed.

The public option won't be an option for many, but rather a mandate for buying government care. A free people should be outraged at this advance of soft tyranny.

Washington does not have the constitutional or moral authority to outlaw private markets in which parties voluntarily participate. It shouldn't be killing business opportunities, or limiting choices, or legislating major changes in Americans' lives.

It took just 16 pages of reading to find this naked attempt by the political powers to increase their reach. It's scary to think how many more breaches of liberty we'll come across in the final 1,002.
The only way to really solve the problem is to give a pink slip to all compromised politicians (who vote without reading the bills) and replace them with men that believe in the constitution and will protect our rights.

Doug Olinger in a blog says,

I believe The Independence Caucus, originated in Utah, has correctly identified the root cause of failure for all efforts of conventional attempts to stop and rectify the decimation of The Constitution -- over the past 100 years!

The Independence Caucus is committed to removing compromised incumbents from office and replacing them with good men and women who agree with our principles. -- principles spelled out in videos at

While it is absolutely necessary that we put out the fires that are symptoms of our decimated Constitution, it only stands to reason that, as with any disease or other malady, if you only treat the symptoms, said malady will keep coming back or, even worse, continue to grow and thereby infect the host that much more, perhaps even to the death of the host. We see this affect in our precious, dying Constitution.

Please, go to, and watch the videos. It is a long read, there are 12 of them. But, I am certain, after you watch them, you will see the reason conventional protest methods do not work.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

health care & immunizations

I just got a letter from the school district which has me really upset. Here is the beginning of it. See if you can find the irony. I’ve tried to help by italicizing the important parts. They were not italicized in the letter.

Missouri law requires that all children show proof of adequate immunizations. According to our records your child will NEED the following immunization(s) to be in compliance.


Although not required for school entry/participation, Menactra, Gardasil, and Varicella (Chickenpox shot) are currently recommended for children of middle and high school age. Please see enclosed information sheets for further information.

According to State law, your child cannot enroll, pick up schedules, or attend school unless properly immunized. Students will be excluded from school August 25, 2009 unless proof of adequate immunization is presented to the school.

And the most convincing argument any health care worker has given me for the shot? Parents have to miss too much work if their kids get chicken pox. The threat of complications is very low—although the numbers (9,000 hospitalized annually with 90 deaths) look big until you realize that 3.5 million kids used to get chicken pox every year. Oh, and don’t forget the booster shot because they have found one shot isn’t good enough. Wonder what the next 10 years will bring? Another stronger booster shot?

My biggest question, however, is how many people notice the dichotomy between the “requirement” and state law? Or is that the kind of education the state-run institution is giving now—to forget the previous paragraph instantly? Or simply not understand what it said?

Unfortunately, at some point I will probably have to cave in and make sure my daughter has the blasted immunization because catching chicken pox as an adult is highly dangerous. Her odds of getting it as a child are not very good since many, if not most, states are requiring it. Is chicken pox uncomfortable? I don't think anyone who has ever had it would deny that and most probably remember it, but I don't think it's anywhere near the same level as measles or scarlet fever.

In the meantime, I guess that means we will opt out of participating even part-time with the governmentally-controlled schools. Shucky darn. We are, however, participating with a huge co-op (350 students). I am so excited I can hardly sit still!


Then there is this whole health care business. If "they" would kindly leave freedom of choice in it, I'd be okay with it all. Not really, but resigned, but my biggest problem with it is that we have made a conscious (and financially necessary) choice to opt out of it. Good ol' big brother would remove that option and make sure we either paid for it or get penalized (since we aren't in the poverty bracket for which I'm eternally grateful) for not paying for it. Given that the highest bill we have ever had to handle is $1000 in a year, the $7,000 a year insurance just doesn't seem worth it. (My husband is covered since he is the breadwinner of the family.) I guess "choice" is only associated with the right to have an abortion. Right, Rep. Claire McCaskill?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Marriage fun facts

My father-in-law just left a link in a tweet, and I want to share. There are some funny parts and some are-you-listening parts to it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Strip search?!!! I think not!

When my sons were in Kindergarten, they had quite the absentee record because of sickness, and I was constantly pressured to send them to school unless they had a fever. One day after my son had been home for a couple of days, I sent him to school with cough drops. Halls, to be exact. I mentioned to his teacher to remind him to take them in case he started coughing, which he was doing frequently. She had a minor fit, and informed me that I had to take them to the school nurse for dispensing. I thought that was pretty silly and made the use of cough drops a moot point, but I did as she directed.

I never got the cough drops back, and my son didn't get any. Maybe the school nurse had a party and served them as refreshments? For the record, I still don't consider cough drops to be medicine.

Did anyone else ever take Ibuprofen to school and keep it in their locker? Midol? According to today's rules, we would have been breaking school rules. I kept them in my hall locker AND PE locker. Double jeopardy! We all did it though. Most girls that I knew had something on hand for cramps, maybe in a locker, maybe in a purse.

I cannot imagine having to undergo a strip search to be sure I didn't have Ibuprofen on my person like this girl in Arizona (

Normally, the conclusions that school officials must have the leeway to make sure the school was a safe facility is reasonable. But a strip search because of another girl's accusation? The "drugs" they were searching for was Ibuprofen, people. Not what most people would call contraband. Even if it was contraband, there are certain legal procedures that should be followed. If schools are exempt from the law, what can't they do?!

Here's is another homeschooler's take on this situation (

I remember dreading jr. high PE because of my sister's tales of having to take group showers. What degradation to have to shower with at least 10 other girls at a time. I have serious issues with that, and that was before the gay and lesbian culture came to the forefront. That was a contributing reason to why we weren't required to shower when I got to the same school. That issue wasn't taken into consideration for the 8th grader either. The sheer intimidation and degradation present by requiring the girl to strip in front of two fully-clothed women who were standing and watching her closely is uncalled for in a civilized society. It takes the girl's humanity down to that of an animal's. My dog will take a dump in front of you with nary a thought of it; is that where we want our society to go?

To think that this came from a "friend's" accusation that she had such a horrible, addicting drug and was sharing it with a friend. (heavy on the sarcasm here, folks) They found Ibuprofen in her notebook but none elsewhere. There was no cause for the strip search. Have you ever shared Ibuprofen with a friend? I have. Shame on me for wanting to help a friend. But the concern named is nuts (see the second paragraph specifically):

The law has long given school officials special leeway to search lockers and backpacks to enable them to better protect students in their care. Instead of "probable cause" -- the standard law enforcement officers must abide by when conducting criminal searches -- schools need only show "reasonable suspicion" that a student has violated the law or the rules of the school to justify a search. A more intrusive search, the Supreme Court has ruled, requires that schools show that it was "justified at its inception" and "reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the interference in the first place." In rebuking Savana's school, the 9th Circuit departed from this sensible Supreme Court standard and issued a decision that would make it much harder for school employees to justify searches. The court also gave its blessing for Savana to go forward with her lawsuit against the vice principal.

The Supreme Court should strike down the lower-court ruling. School officials must have the flexibility to act quickly and decisively to avert all manner of danger. Fear of being sued for making reasonable if controversial judgment calls will only chill these efforts.

This is fear run amock. Heaven help us if our court system does not protect our children.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Computer-aided learning from A&O

We did it. We took the leap to computer-based education. I purchased Alpha and Omega's Switched on Schoolhouse, at least for Language Arts, History and Geography (which will wait until we finish the Middle Ages), and Science. That brings our total of computer subjects up to four with Teaching Textbooks' math curriculum, which I love!

It has gotten harder and harder to sync up all the kids' schedules for each subject so I've stopped trying. The good part, though, is that other subjects that I have ignored because it was too much work will get picked up. They don't have to be done all together. Things like copywork and memorization. My next purchase will be a Reading Journal for me to record sayings, poems, and the like that would make good memorization pieces. I think a glitzy looking notebook should stand out tolerably well so my boys don't use it!

Another big, huge, gigantic plus is that it keeps track of time---wonderful because Missouri tracks by hours, not days. I absolutely hate the record keeping requirements here. They are miserable. It also gives the kids immediate feedback on their work---essential for optimal learning but so difficult to achieve even for homeschoolers. Last, it grades most of the work for me. I procrastinated grading papers even when I taught at Logan High so that's obviously a toughie for me. What's not to like?!

To make it even better, the software has been upgraded to Windows Vista, and is on 20 percent sale right now. Check out this supplier at Their customer service is excellent. I had several questions before buying, and they were answered within the hour.

For more detailed information about the topics studied in a given year, you will need to go to Alpha and Omega's website where they have full listings. (AG Distribution sent me the link.) They also have a diagnostic exam if you aren't sure what grade to use. You can purchase a full battery of exams for each grade and course from AG Distribution or you can use the free ones from A & O for Language Arts and Math. I almost skipped a grade based on the test, but another mom advised me not to because the coursework builds on what was covered the previous year. She also told me there are some Yahoo support groups that are invaluable.

So now we wait for delivery, free as long as ground was acceptable. (It was.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Web-based learning software review

I just signed up one of my boys for I'm interested in the Language Arts program, but I'm not sure this is the right fit. He has given the thumbs up on it (based on 15 minutes usage), and it seems to be a good fit for him but I am still unsure. They give a 14-day trial period, and we'll probably use about half that before I decide for sure.

Pros and cons:

Pro: This program offers Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, and Science. It also keeps track of the child's progress, alleviating the need for the parent to keep track of it.

Pro: It is colorful and fun looking, appealing to kids, hopefully attracting them to do their work without argument. :-)

Pro: You have access to all grades at once so if your child moves quickly or if you picked the wrong level, you can change the level without further cost.

Pro: We can easily take schoolwork with us on vacation as long as we have internet access. Built in con: We'll need to take a wireless router with us=more expense.

Pro: My son likes it.

Con: I think it is an expensive program. You pay a monthly fee to access the web-based program rather than buying it outright. The first child is $20 a month, and additional children are $16 apiece each month. You also have to buy into the whole thing rather than picking just one subject. Compare that to Alpha and Omega Publications, where you pay just $62 for each subject area/grade or $300 for all five subjects (Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, Math, and Bible).

Con: I have already selected Teaching Textbooks for our Math studies and am very happy with it. Another pricey program (although less if you don't opt to buy the workbooks, which are unnecessary IMO in the elementary grades.) Mitigates the benefit of Time4Learning. Since I'm not looking to replace our history studies, that leaves Science, but I am looking at using Janice VanCleave's books for that---so that's a lot of $$$ for just one subject.

Con: Less face-to-face time and more competition for the computer. I'm not sure that is a good thing. Scratch that. I don't think that is a good thing. It also means we need to buy more seats on NetNanny to cover multiple computers so I can relax about accidental exposure to things better done without (and eliminate the competition for one computer.) How's that for a never-ending sentence?

Decision: I'm going to drop the subscription. The interface is friendly, but I need to have more face time with my kids since that's a big reason I homeschool. Cost is also a big issue right now, and this program doesn't fit our budgetary concerns.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Another "It happened"

J-Dawg and S-man both got their papers completed. Whew!

They have also finished the required service hours for Life scout in Boy Scouts.

And now we have snow. Blossoms a-plenty, leaves coming out, green grass, and a freeze on its way. Gross.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

It happened, it happened!

It finally happened. J-Dawg begged to do more math. You have absolutely no idea of what a major milestone that was!

The problem? He has 3 merit badges to finish up and a paper on the history of taekwondo due to his TKD master tomorrow so he can test for his blue belt. The merit badges have a few more weeks.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Across a Dark and Wild Sea

We have had a quiet week so far. Last week, all 3 kids were sick; this week, they aren't quite well and my daughter is threatening a second bout. I hope to avoid it!

Yesterday was all about the skeleton. Today we did a little more, but ran out of tape to put the models together so we moved onto history. I didn't feel like pulling out The Story of the World today so we read a bunch of library books depicting the Dark Ages and read them out loud. The kids loved it.

My favorite story was called Across a Dark and Wild Sea, by Don Brown. It is about Columcille, a prince, scribe, monk, and bard. It opens with him copying a songbook that its owner didn't want copied (remember, this is a time when there were very few books and those few were copied by hand.)

Here was a favorite paragraph of mine:
For thousands of miles in every direction, armies marched and battles raged. The Roman Empire, which once sat atop the world of Columcille's ancestors, tottered and fell. And in its ruins lay knowledge and education. All of it---empire and culture---was swept away like yesterday's dust by new rulers.

That theme reminded me of Farenheit 451. (not the whole book---it follows the life of the son of an Irish king about 521 AD). How grateful I am to be in the middle of plenty of books! Do we really understand what we have?

Back to this book though: It is a picture book but informative too. A wonderful read-aloud for parents and kids. One of my sons came around and read over my shoulder while my other two children were hooked listening. Don't skip showing the pictures---my kids are highly visual and artistic, and the pictures are worth studying.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Movin' on

Why do I wait until late at night to blog? I'm tired!

We finally finished The Story of the World: Ancient World, by Susan Wise Bauer. It spanned a couple of years, mostly because we stopped about 10 chapters early and did some other things. Like workbooks.

Imagine three children saying, "Boring!" Yup, that would be my three.

Added to that, my son kept waving the second volume (Middle Ages) under my nose saying, "When are we going to do this?" (I bought it two years ago.)

When my daughter started asking when we could do the silk road on p. 120, I knew we needed to hustle. So we abandoned Genevieve Foster which my sons hated and daughter enjoyed, and reverted to Bauer's book.

Last week we finished Ancient World and began Middle Ages, starting with Chapter 2 and Britain. We'd had enough of Rome. (Chapter 1 recapped the end of Rome that we covered thoroughly between the two books.)

Now we have studied the Celts as thoroughly as we are probably going to. In college terms, this is a survey course. In college, however, we would have covered the entire book in exactly one quarter rather than 2 years.

BTW, Usborne's Ancient World Encyclopedia does a great job of shielding kids from nudity. The Celts fought naked, and the internet is replete with those images. I decided to forego those. It was enough to read how they decorated themselves. We did get a chuckle out of remembering John Bytheway's quip in his talk, Righteous Warriors, Lessons from the War Chapters in the Book of Mormon, about how the Lamanites came out to battle: "Let's see, we're going to battle with lots of long pointy things. Yup, I think I'll wear the loincloth." (I didn't check that, and I don't have a photographic memory, and my kids who do are asleep, so this will have to be close enough.)

Now I'm wandering so I'll head off to bed.

Thanks for the visit!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Is it worth the struggle? (not a dire post)

After about an hour of struggling with my daughter to get her ready for school, I finally got her there.  She was all,  "I don't want to go!  Why can't you unenroll me?"  

Picking her up?  Much happier.  I asked her to remember that next week when she goes, and she said, "Okay.  (pause)  Well, I'll try."

This happens every single day she goes to public school.  No exceptions. 

Today the bribe was that we would go to the zoo after she got out of school.  That greased the works and she finally got ready.  (Normally there are no bribes.)

The zoo was nice.  Hot.  Too hot for March.  I hope we aren't in for a dry year.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Okay, I'm struggling with this blog again. This time, though, it's because it is linked to an old email account, one that is being swamped with about 100 emails at a time. I can't deal with it all! If anyone knows how I can swap it over to my new email address, I'd be very grateful. I don't want to forward my emails from one to the other because the first one has the aforesaid junk that I can't wade through any more.

A lot of those emails are financially tuned, and they are full of bad news due to the taxation issues presented by this lovely bail-out plan. I cannot deal with it. A bunch of the others are dealing with the effects of other of Obama's lovely plans that will infringe on religious rights of doctors and families. I can't deal with that either. I have things that I can affect much more effectively at home but are seeming overwhelming sometimes too. I look ahead and pray for leaders who can bring us through this mess, and find some real solutions that don't include bankrupting this country. I pray I can teach my children and help them to think things through clearly. That's mind boggling enough for me. Pray for me because right now I want to cry.

I've thought so often lately that when the Constitution can no longer protect the family, the people will suffer. I am concerned that we are building another Civil War. Undue taxation has always built revolt, and that is what we are building. When we stop safeguarding the family, the civilization is on its way out.

Our freedom lies in the principles embodied in the Constitution; it was built with wisdom beyond any man. We must return to it. We must read it. We must get familiar with what it says. And then we must act to throw out every single person from the government who is not protecting and abiding by the principles in the Constitution. The principles work. They have worked through the ages, and they still work. It is us who have forgotten. Truth is truth no matter what. There is the famous quotation that has gone around and around, "You can't break the commandments; you can only break yourself against them." Another truth.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bartering for goods and services

I have been thinking about the advantages of a barter system, especially right now. We have had to cut back on some lifestyle/educational choices lately because of unexpected expenses, and I have been trying to figure out ways to bring those choices back to life.

My solution? The barter system. Between my husband and I, we have some skills that we could trade for some privileges. To be honest, I'm far more aware of the advantages that some of my husband's skills could bring. I'm sure he'll be thrilled with giving up his already non-existent spare time because some of those are worth more money than mine.

My skills? The only one that is probably worth a bit more in trade is tutoring. I'm just not sure I want to teach someone else's children though. That is scary! Funny, most people think teaching their own children is terrifying. I figure that if I'm screwing up, I've already done it because I'm their mom. If I have damaged their psyche, it's done. Probably by age 3. Hopefully they'll turn out fine anyway. That's my daily prayer.

My husband? He's an experienced IT guy AND a photographer. A dang good one too if I do say so myself. Look and see for yourself at

Back to the concept of bartering: it seems like many things are either over- or under-valued anymore, and money doesn't seem to be doing the job as it once did. I don't know that our economy could ever use a 100 percent bartering system, but it seems that there is room for some. For examle, if I grow tomatoes, and you grow corn, maybe we could swap so we could both have tomatoes and corn. It seems like it work on a local basis only---a tough sell on the internet, and I don't think home mortgage companies would like to receive 100 loaves of bread in lieu of a house payment, no matter how good they are! That would even mean that for every one customer that paid in kind, a business (even locally owned) would need several more to pay in cash so they could pay their employees, their rent, etc.

Another benefit of the barter system is that kids could get involved. Right now, in the state of Missouri, kids cannot hold a job until they are 14 and only then if they have the superintendent of school's okay it and it is for a limited number of hours. On the other hand, many folks will stop for a glass of lemonade at a child's lemonade stand just to encourage their entrepreneurial efforts.

I think we might investigate the possibilities of this in a very small way, and see what we can teach the kids about the value of work and recognizing the value of their talents and abilities.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I'm back, I think

Hello again, I think. I read another blog yesterday where the author wrote that the purpose behind her blog was to show life with spectacularly normal children. Then I received an email from a mom who was feeling horribly behind the game.

I got to thinking....the problem for many of us is that none of us (or very few) really feel like we're doing enough most of the time. We homeschoolers hear stories of these human dynamos who have their acts totally together and their children receive the Presidential scholarship to several Ivy League universities no later than age 14.

Non-homeschoolers? Their daughters are competing for the next gymnastics Olympic team by age 10; they never complain about homework, zipping through it and acing their exams with aplomb; and their sons are on the Honor Roll, the district's winning Academic team, and working on their Eagles by age 12.

Yup, you got it. I flunked all of those tests. I got what I prayed for. Normal children.

School got derailed once again by an emergency trip to Idaho to see my husband's grandfather, and I am personally not dealing with the thought of him passing to the next life very well even though I am only an in-law---he's my (I claim him) last grandfather alive on earth at this time---I lost one at age 6 1/2, one at 18, and I'm not ready to let the last one go. Then there's the stress of having to pay for that trip---I am grateful for creditors who believed in us enough to help us go. I am also grateful we will be paying them off soon!

Yesterday we did a bunch of President's Day worksheets from Enchanted Learning. Okay, so I went a little overboard and we did about 5 hours worth of them! We covered every subject with them!!!

Additionally, I'd like to find about $130 by March to buy a Math program from Teaching Textbooks. My sister turned me onto them, and they are great. Go try it for yourselves! Why do I love it so much? Because I am beginning to hate math!!! If I have to go through it all even one more time, I might scream.................................................. Amazingly, my kids really like it too. They like anything that puts them on the computer. Now, if I could find a really good, fun writing program on the computer, I'd know I had died and gone to heaven.

Something I have learned recently? All the waiting I have done, allowing the kids to set their own pace for the most part, is paying off. My boys are finally ready. Those 10 pounds of Presidents Day-themed worksheets yesterday? They would not have done so many even 3 months ago. It's clicking. I learned that with reading, but I was starting to shove every subject down their throats anyway because "everyone else was doing it", and my kids were "falling behind" whatever that means! They were beginning to hate school just like everyone else too.

Of course, I still want that math program without the help of our wonderful creditors!

P.S. I knocked off my blog links, not because I didn't like them, but because they weren't working when I clicked on them.