Thursday, September 30, 2010

Writing Woes

Dea finished her paper on Evolution vs Creation. It has been a big battle to get this paper done. She doesn't want to learn about the Theory of Evolution, so she fights every step of the way.  The paper was, to be completely honest, awful.
However, I've come to the conclusion that it was only partially her fault. Yes, she was lazy about doing the research. Yes, she did a half-assed job, purposefully. Although.....

Writing has always been her most difficult subject. We've been using Writing Strands for years. It has helped in some ways. Her creative writing is getting better & she's developing her own style. Those are good things. It hasn't helped at all with reports, research papers, or essays, though.

So, we're putting a very strong focus on this type of writing. We're starting small & working our way to bigger things. Her first assignment is to write an introduction paragraph for an essay on the benefits of being a lifegaurd as a summer job for a teenager. I figure I'll assign several introduction paragraphs, then have her choose one for a full essay. After she's more comfortable with essay writing, she'll redo her research paper.

I'm hoping we don't have this same ptoblem with Jay. I've already started searching for something else for him to use for writing. He might use Writing Strands, if he wants to, but I want to find something that will really focus on reports, papers, and essays.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Thoughts on banning books

It's Banned Book Week, and that has me thinking. It's got me thinking about the fact that some people really have a lot of nerve & are very egocentric. What makes someone think that they have the right to tell anyone else what they (or their children) should be allowed to read? Do you honestly think that you know more & better than everyone else? What makes you so special that you alone are privy to the knowledge of what is and isn't good for everyone?

If you don't like a book, it's content, it's author, it's title, or whatever else about it you have issue with, don't read it. If you think a book is inappropriate for kids, tell your kids not to read it. If you want to restrict the books you read & the books your children read, that is your business.

However, you have no right to tell me what my kids should be allowed to read. You have no right to tell the schools that they shouldn't have students read a book because you don't like it. You have no right to tell a school library that they shouldn't carry a certain book because you don't want your kid reading it. You have absolutely no right to tell a public library what books they should or should not carry. You have NO RIGHT to make decisions for me or my kids.

If you think the Harry Potter series (or any of the other hundreds of books people have challenged) is evil, don't buy the books or the movies. Tell your kids they can't check them out from the library. Actually be an involved parent. Trying to get books banned because you don't like them is like trying to shut down all fast food restaurants because you don't like their food. If you don't like fast food, don't go to a fast food place. If you don't like a book, don't read it. It's quite simple. You are responsible for you and your family, not me & mine. Get off your high horse and stop assuming that you have some right to tell everyone else what they should do.

I monitor my kids' reading. You pretty much have to when they're so far ahead in reading. By the end of 3rd grade, my daughter had read at least one high school level book & several jr high level books. You can't just let a child like that have completely free reign in book choice. I let them read what they want, for the most part. If it has content that I really don't feel is appropriate for them, I don't allow them to read it until I feel it is appropriate. It really is that simple.

Now, I understand that it might be a little more difficult if they attend public school, can get the book at the school library, and leave it at school. However, that still doesn't make it ok for you to try to control what other people have access to. It's simply not up to you what other parents allow their kids to read. Let me repeat that: It is not up to you to decide what is ok for other people to read.

What you consider inappropriate may be totally different from what I consider inappropriate. Just because you disapprove of books involving witches, vampires, atheists, homosexuals, etc., that doesn't mean that everyone else does. If you want to voice an opinion about it, fine - post a book review, complain about the book on your blog, write an opinion piece for a paper or magazine. I'm not saying that you should hold your tongue. I'm not saying that you don't have a right to your own opinion. However, voicing your opinion of a book is one thing. Trying to assert control over what books others have access to is another thing entirely.

It is simply not your place to decide what books I allow my children to read. Informing people of content that they may find inappropriate is one thing, and it can be done in respectful ways. Trying to have books banned from schools or libraries is very disrespectful and assumes that other parents aren't capable of making decisions regarding their own children. I find it incredibly rude for you to assume that you are a better parent than I am or that you are better able to make decisions about my child rearing than I am. It is judgemental to tell me what books I should allow my kids to read, what movies they should watch, or what music they should listen to. It is disrespectful to act as though your opinion is more important than mine.

So, to all of you who have challenged books, trying to remove them from schools and libraries, I have this to say:

BACK OFF!!!!!!!!!!! Make decisions for your own family and have the decency to let me make decisions for mine. Grow up, get over yourself, and realize that in the grand scheme of things you & your opinions are NOT the end-all be-all!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sorry if I offended

In reading over my last post, I noticed a comment that could be taken in a way other than what I meant. When discussing my dislike for abridged & "for kids" versions, I made the comment that we value education too highly to use those versions.

I want to clarify that I did not mean to say that those who use those versions don't value education or don't value it as much as we do. Each of us has our own ideas of what constitutes a 'good' or 'excellent' education. Some consider the core subjects to be Math & Language Arts. Others would count those plus other subjects. Some require 1 foreign language, some 3 or 4 languages, and some require none. Some expect their children to learn 'dead' languages, while others only require modern languages. Some feel Home Ec is important, others don't. Some aim for a well-rounded education, covering as many areas/subjects as they can. Others aim for a more focused education, based on the future plans of the child.

What I aim for with my kids is an excellent education. However, my idea of excellence & your idea of excellence may differ greatly. You may see my the education I offer my kids to be overkill, or you may see it as being too light. It all depends on your views.

Now, to the issue of the abridged & "for kids" books. I, personally, don't like them. They don't fit in with my ideas & goals for my children's education. For my standards, my idea of an excellent education, they would not fit. They would detract from what I am aiming for. They simply don't fit in my educational philosophy.

I have heard several reasons for using those books. The ones that come to mind are 1) It introduces children to works they wouldn't be able to read for many years yet 2) They have the inappropriate content removed 3) Reading the abridged version when they are younger will make them more likely to read the regular version when they're older.

Now, those are true, for some people. However, not all kids read at 'grade level', so an advanced reader would be capable of reading the regular versions years before average or struggling readers. Not all who read abridged or "for kids' versions as children will want to read the regular version when they are older, since, in their minds, they already read it. Inappropriate content is very subjective. What you consider inappropriate & what I consider inappropriate could be very different. Age and temperament of the child also come into play with deciding appropriateness.

I don't like abridged versions. That's just my opinion, and I understand that many people disagree with it. I wouldn't read an abridged version (I won't buy them either). So, why would I make my kids read them? I don't like the "for kids" versions of Shakespeare and Mythology, either. I've looked through many of them at the library. While they may have nice illustrations, and the basic point of the story may be intact, they're just too different from the original versions for my taste. To me, they come too close to the warm, fuzzy Disney versions of stories.

If abridged & "for kids" versions fit in with your educational philosophy, methods, and ideas, that's fine. Your views on education, your educational philosophy, your academic ideals are different from mine. Not superior or inferior, just different. I understand & respect that. I honestly didn't mean to imply, in the other post, that I look down on those who use those books.

So, I'm sorry if you were offended by that post or if it came across as me being judgemental. That really was not the intent. I don't walk on eggshells trying to prevent insult, but if I can see how something could be taken in a way other than  what I meant & it could be insulting or offensive, I want to clarify and apologize. I really didn't mean it to sound that way. Hopefully, my explanation here gives a better idea of how I really think/feel.

Your views may be different from mine, but that diversity & variety is what makes the world an interesting place.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Why not use packaged curriculum?

I have often been asked why I design the kids' curriculum myself. Why piece it together with supplemental materials, hands-on projects, and tons of books? Why create some of the materials myself? Why not just buy a curriculum for each subject or go the boxed curriculum route? Well, today I'm going to tell you why I do it the way I do.

I actually have multiple reasons for the way I design our curriculum. Today however, I'm going to focus on just one reason: Designing the curriculum myself is the only way to get a curriculum that meets my standards & expectations.

What is it that I expect? I expect a Science curriculum to teach Science, not religion. I expect a History curriculum to teach actual History, not a patriotic "we did nothing wrong" version, a "History only matters when it involves war" version, or a "History stops everywhere else in the world once America has been 'discovered' unless America is involved in it" version. I expect a curriculum to teach the intended subject accurately. I expect the people who write & publish curriculum to not assume that kids are idiots, incapable of understanding anything even remotely challenging.

I don't use material that has been dumbed down. My kids don't read the abridged version of books. They don't read the dumbed down 'for kids' versions of classics, mythology, Shakespeare, etc. I see no point in having them read that stuff. They can read the regular version when they're ready for it. We don't dumb things down in this house. We value education too highly to provide our kids with dumbed down 'for kids' versions of anything, whether it's good books or academic info.

So, when I read something by a curriculum writer or publisher that states that elementary school children are 'too young' to understand a topic, so it shouldn't be broached until jr high or high school, I'm not going to waste good money on their product. When I read something by the publisher of materials allegedly made for Gifted students, that states that anyone who teaches Ancient Civilizations to young students is trying to "make their children smarter" and that children in first grade can't understand the concept of time & think that Ancient Civilizations & the time of the dinosaurs were during their parents' childhood years,  I have no choice but to question whether or not they've ever actually met a Gifted child. When a product description claims that the colorful pages are perfect for the highly distractable child, again, their credentials are called into question. When a publisher claims their method works for all children, regardless of ability level or learning style, I look elsewhere for possible materials.

Why is it that so many of the people who write and publish curriculum assume that children are morons? Why do they all seem to believe that children are incapable of thinking for themselves? Why do they write & publish crap that is so dumbed down that it barely qualifies as educational & then claim it's a high-quality curriculum? Why is it that so many other people are sucked into believing these ridiculous ideas?

I have high standards. I admit that. I am teaching my kids to strive for excellence. I want them to be the absolute best they can be. I want them to reach their full potential and have as many doors open to them as possible. I don't ask or require anything from them if I don't truly believe they are completely capable of it. Yes, I expect their best. Yes, I want them to strive for excellence (not perfection, there is a difference). However, I never expect anything of them they can't do. I don't push them to be better or smarter than others. I don't try to "make them smarter." I don't push work they can't do or expect grades they can't achieve. I do, however, expect their best effort.

I have a lot of difficulty finding materials that meet my high standards, meet my expectations, work for my kids, and are actually at an appropriate level for my kids (a.k.a. not what is considered 'grade level' work). So, I piece our curriculum together from supplemental materials, materials I create (also supplemental materials), hands-on work, and lots of books.

I know I have a different way of doing things. I know that I see things in a very different way. I often don't respond to questions about curriculum, unless it's about one I have used & liked. I apparently offend people when I say that we didn't like something because it was too much review & repetition for whichever kid used it, or that we found something to be below the child's level, or that it was very flawed & had several inaccuracies. So, when someone asks about material that we used & didn't like, I mostly stay quiet about it. If someone asks about materials we didn't use because I was unimpressed with the way the publisher viewed children's ability to learn, the sample pages I got & looked over thoroughly, or the descriptions & reviews I'd read, I see no point in responding. Now, I know some of you are thinking "Why not just respond and give your opinion about it?" Well, a lot of the materials I think are below grade level work, too easy, dumbed down, too much review & repetition, boring, biased, or unimpressive in other ways are pretty popular within the homeschooling world. Now, I'm not worried about people's opinions of me. I don't care if people think I'm being too harsh on a curriculum or that I expect too much. I don't care if people think I'm exaggerating what my kids are doing in school or what they're capable of (I know the truth & am not worried  about others believing me). I'm not concerned with that. I'm not even concerned about people being offended when I give my reasons for not liking a particular material. Not that I want to offend people or anything, but I can't exactly help it if someone takes my opinion of a curriculum as a personal attack on their homeschooling style, the education they're providing their kids, their dedication to their kids' academics, etc., and I'm not the type of person to walk around on egg shells trying to avoid unintentionally hurting someone's feelings. I don't mean to offend people with my opinions of curriculum, but I'm not going to lie about my opinion of it, or try to sugar-coat it. If you're offended by the fact that there is someone in the world that wouldn't use the same materials you use, you're bound to be very disappointed in life. The issue is, if a person asks a question about specific material, they are looking for help. If my opinion of a material will do nothing more than offend people (because people are offended if you don't like the material they use because that apparently means that you must think they're giving their kids a subpar education by using it) and start a storm of posts arguing with every word of my post, the original point of the thread is lost & the person looking for help doesn't get it. So, my posting about materials I am unimpressed with, does nothing more than start arguments. This has happened many times in the past, which is why I don't respond to many questions about materials now. This is especially true of materials that we have not actually used. Apparently, even though I found the samples to be below my kids' abilities, the kind of work that would bore them, and not up to my standards, I would feel completely differently if I actually spent the money to buy it. Even though I see it as a waste of my money & time, since I would have to tweak & add so much to make it usable as part of our curriculum, others are completely convinced that I would fall head-over-heels in love with it if I were to buy it. According to these people, you can't tell if it would work for your kids or how high-quality it is from the samples, you have to buy it to see it's true potential. My question for them is this - What is the point of the samples, then? Why bother offering samples if they don't show the quality, potential, or usefulness of the program? The whole point of samples is to offer a look at the materials so the potential buyer can make an informed decision about the purchase of the materials. So, it follows that the samples would be chosen carefully to show the potential buyer what they would be getting if they purchased. Therefore, if the samples for a Science curriculum says that humans are not mammals, I have no reason to believe that the accuracy of the Science will improve if I spend my money on it. If I have to double check every answer in the answer key for a Math program, because of the many inaccurate answers I found in the answer key, that pretty much makes the answer key useless & makes me question the curriculum writer's ability to teach Math .

I understand that not everyone shares my view on things. That's fine with me. I have no problem with people liking materials I don't like or not liking materials I do like. However, I don't appreciate the fact that, if I voice my opinion of a material, everyone whose opinions differ from mine feels they should & can attack me for daring to see it in a different light. I have my own standards for my kids' education. My standards are different from the standards of others. I'm fine with that. I try to be respectful about that. I try to personalize any opinion I give about any educational material - it wasn't right for us, it was too much review for my daughter, it was too easy (& therefore boring) for my son, etc. That way, I'm not just saying it sucks or saying that nobody should use it, I'm giving specifics about why we didn't like it. Yet, people still see it as a personal attack on them. They seem to take "This had too much review & repetition for us" as "It's a slow moving program only usable for idiots who take forever to grasp the concept." Of course, that's not what I mean when I say something like 'too much review,' but that sure is how many seem to take it. If I'm commenting on the fact that it has inaccuracies, mistakes, or outright untruths, that's not an opinion. So, why do people get so personally offended? Is it that they're upset that they didn't notice the mistakes? Or do they just not like someone pointing out that the material they use isn't perfect?

Wow, sorry about that. I digressed a bit there. Back to the original topic. I design our curriculum, instead of buying something already put together, because it works better us. Many people seem to assume that I am searching. Apparently, the fact that I don't use packaged curriculum for most subjects means that I must be searching for the perfect curriculum in each subject, and once I find the perfect curriculum I'll change the way we do things. Um, no. That's not why I do things the way I do. Yes, I want curriculum for some subjects. I want a solid program for Math & foreign language. At the high school level, I want (at least) a strong spine for Science. I'll use a curriculum for Government & Economics, when we get there. Other than that, I prefer to piece it together. There is NO History curriculum in existence that would meet my standards - the quality I want, the scope & sequence I want, the depth I want, the perfect mix of hands-on & book work, coverage of events from various perspectives to better find the truth (I don't believe it is possible to have an unbiased text about History or Science), an interesting (not boring) style, uses all learning styles, can be moved through at child's pace. The same for Science. There is no Elementary Science program that I want to use, because they don't meet my standards. I want a decent spine for the High School level Sciences, so we don't miss something important, but have yet to see one that I wouldn't feel the need to add to in order to consider it a full course.

Others may be able to find curriculum that works perfectly for them, and that's great for them. However, there is nothing out there that meets my standards & expectations. Even what we use for Math & Foreign Languages - I have the main program we use, but still add extra stuff. I design our program the way I do because that is what works for us. That is how our program will meet the standards & expectations it needs to meet. That is how I know my kids are getting the education I want them to get.

Just because my standards, goals, and expectations are different than yours, that doesn't mean that either of us is right or wrong, or that what either of us wants is better than the other. It simply means we want different things. Why do so many people see diversity & variety as such a bad thing?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Week in Review

Ok, another week has ended. That means it's time to let you know what we did for school this week. The kids were feeling a bit under the weather this week. So, we really didn't get much done. Jay set up his Ancient Egypt exhibit & did tours last weekend through yesterday. We'll be taking it down today. I'll post pics of the exhibit later.

It's not a lot, but here's what we did this week:

Jay:
Language Arts - less 7 in ETC book 7, 30 min daily reading, read Ghostville Elementary: Happy Haunting, read Zombie in the Library, started reading Goosebumps Night of the Living Dummy III, played various word games on the computer, played Scrabble with Dea, spent time on Starfall & other fun reading sites.

Latin - chap 13 Song School Latin, review games at Headventure Land

Math - we started work on Roman Numerals this week, most of his work was done on the whiteboard, he only did one page in Subduing Subtraction p.66 (in the additional topics)

Social Studies - built the Colosseum that came with his Lift the Lid on Gladiators kit, read several library about Ancient Greece & Ancient Rome, did some work on Ancient Greece Notebooking Pages

Science - School Express unit on Ladybugs, worked on items for exhibit


Dea:
English - Easy Grammar 8 day 111-120, read A Doll's House Act 1

Math - Chap 3 test (less 27) LOF, Less 28-31 LOF

Science - research for paper on Evolution vs Creation

Latin - chap 10 Oxford Latin Course

Geography - Power Basics World Geography less 2 - practice 6-16, workbook activity 7-17 (she already had most of this done, but had to go back and do some work that she skipped over)

History - weapons of WWII

Art - 1 artist Bio

Music - 2 musician Bios


Considering both kids were feeling under the weather, that's not too shabby.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How to fix the public schools

I saw something on TV the other day about our local district's plan to improve the public schools. Then, I searched online because nowhere, in all of their talking, did they mention any actual details of this plan. So, I found their 'strategic plan' which has very little info about how they intend to meet the goals they're setting. It does however have this wonderful statement:

Visualize meaningful partnerships with our institutions of higher education, city government, nonprofit and faith-based organizations.

Ummmmmmm, exactly why would the PUBLIC SCHOOLS have a relationship with FAITH-BASED organizations? PUBLIC schools should not have anything to do with FAITH-BASED organizations! We have more than enough religious schools in the area. Those schools can connect themselves with whatever faith-based organizations they want. However, public schools should not ever have anything to do with religion!! NEVER!

They also plan to have Parent Academies, which will teach parents how to help their kids with homework & parenting skills. Most of the people in this city who aren't capable of a task as simple as helping their child with homework attended this same school district. If they couldn't educate those people when they were students, what makes them think they'll be able to do it know that they're adults?

Now, their goals aren't really bad, just incomplete and overly broad & vague. My least favorite, though, is this one:

Hold adults accountable

It's not that I think that adults shouldn't be held accountable. I do however have an issue with the idea that ONLY adults should be held accountable. What about holding the STUDENT accountable? The idea that only the teachers, administrators, and parents should be held accountable is ignorant. It gives the impression that education is something that is done TO you, not something you are actively involved in. Did they ever think that a big part of their problem, a big part of the reason so few students are motivated or take any responsibility for their education is the fact that all focus on accountability is aimed at other people? The administrators blame the teachers & parents. The teachers blame administration & the parents. The parents blame the teachers & administration. Then they all wonder why the students don't take any responsibility!? Maybe, it has something to do with the fact that they've been told repeatedly that the ADULTS must be held accountable, and never told that THEY should also be held accountable.

Education is NOT something done TO you. It is not a passive activity. It involves work & effort on part of the student, as well as the teacher & the student's parents. Students need to be held accountable for their own education, more than anyone else. It doesn't matter how hard the teachers or parents work at providing an education. If the student isn't willing to work for their own education, they won't get much of one.

You want to know how to improve the public schools? I'll tell you how.

1. Get rid of the jerk teachers who play favorites, and give grades based more on whether or not they like a student than on actual performance & effort.

2. Buy enough textbooks for each student to have one, and let them take them home at the end of the day.

3. Stop wasting time on busywork - this includes assigning word searches as homework in jr high & high school.

4. Use a different method of teaching. Pretty much anything other than the "Read Chap X in the textbook & do the questions on page xx. Test on Friday." method currently used would be an improvement.

5. Allow the students to think for themselves instead of spoon-feeding them biased inaccuracies.

6. INVOLVE them in their education. Stop treating it as something passive  and get them involved!

7. If you're going to have a 'Zero Tolerance' policy, stick to it. Zero Tolerance does not mean "Well, we'll suspend the two kids who brought fake guns to school, but the student who brought a real knife only deserves detention."

8. Get rid of the administrators who make it their personal mission to find a reason to expell a student, simply because they don't like that student. Little Hint: It's not good when a student's parent has to threaten to get a restraining order & have the assisstant principal arrested for harrassment.

9. Realize that children are HUMANS, not ROBOTS. They can not be programmed to work at a certain pace, reach milestones at a certain time, and always be at the exact same place developmentally as all other children. Children are individuals. That individuality should be celebrated not stamped out of them by an assembly line education system that wants nothing but drones. If you want a school full of drones, go raid a bee hive.

10. Stop getting rid of things like The Arts, Sports, Reccess, and other "extras." They ARE necessary!

11. Stop cutting back the hours of the school day & the number of days they're actually in class OR expect less courses & credits from them. It's wrong to expect the same number of high school credits from students with a 6 hour day as you did  when they had an 8 hour day.

12. Realize that it will not harm children to learn through playing in the early years. Requiring they start school in Pre-School will not give them an academic edge. In fact, forcing them into that institutional setting at such an early age is more likely to cause burn-out than to provide an actual advantage. Having Pre-School (and possibly Kindergarten) programs be optional and play-based would be much more beneficial to the students. They should have some workbooks & other 'typical' school materials for the advanced students & the students who prefer learning with those tools, but the main focus should be learning through fun. If you don't beat the idea that learning is fun out of a child, they tend to enjoy education for a much longer period of time & are therefore more motivated to continue learning.

13. Allow students to work at their own pace. Students should not be made to feel dumb or behind if it takes them a little extra time to grasp a concept. Students who grasp & master quickly should not be punished with ridiculous amounts of review while they wait for the rest of the class to catch up.

14. Have a Gifted program and a Special Education program, and have them run by people who actually know something about Gifted & Special Education.

15. Talk with a child. Not talk AT a child, but WITH a child. You know, a real conversation, one with give & take. You ask questions, then shut up & pay attention while they answer. Really listen to them. I have serious doubts that anyone in charge of a school has ever done this. If you had, you might realize that children are not stupid. The whole Tabula Rasa theory is total crap. We do not come into this world a blank slate just waiting for a certified teacher to tell us how & what to think. We come into this world able to think, observe, have ideas & opinions, form hypotheses (and then test them). If you ever really conversed with a child, you would know that.

Now, I feel I need to say a few things here.

1. I am not anti-public school. I think it's a great idea to have public schools. I know that some people would never get an education if not for public schools. I do, however, think that we've taken a good idea & run it into the ground. It's now time to rebuild it & learn from the mistakes that have turned it from the great hope for a well-educated, well-rounded society into the failing institution it is today.

2. I have a huge respect for teachers. I know that I could not do that job. Teaching my two kids at home is a completely different thing. I wouldn't last a year in a classroom - being told how to teach, what materials to use, what to teach, what order to teach things, plus having to deal with other people's kids for that long, not to mention dealing with their parents, I could not do it. I admit that in my years in school I dealt with some teachers that should not have been teachers. I had teachers that didn't like working with kids. I had teachers that refused to move with the times & teach in ways that would actually work. I had teachers that yelled at the class, played favorites, acted in inappropriate ways, etc. I had bad experiences with teachers. However, I also had some really fantastic teachers. I had teachers that truly enjoyed their work, really tried to reach & encourage the students, and had unbelievable amounts of patience. I know that there are fantastic teachers in the public schools. I also know that not all teachers are cutout for that job.

These are just my opinions, based on my experiences in school, the time my daughter spent in school, and the many things I've heard about the current state of our local schools (from both students & teachers). Feel free to disagree with me. All I ask is that you disagree respectfully.

Monday, September 20, 2010

I got an Award!?

Wow! I've recieved a Blog Award from Jana at Homeschooling a Texas Tornado & a Preschool Tag-A-Long!

                                                         lovely blog Award 1

To be honest, I'm rather surprised by this award and am honored that Jana would choose me as a recipient.

I didn't start this blog with delusions of grandeur, thinking that my blog would become insanely popular or that it would have tons of readers. I didn't start it with hopes of winning an award. In fact, until recently, I wasn't even aware that blog awards existed. In short, I didn't really start this blog for others. I started it for me. I love to write, but I'm not the "I'm going to write a novel" type. I intend to someday write a book (or a few) about homeschooling, but that's not happening anytime soon. So, I figured I'd start a blog. It gives me a place to write. It allows me to share my thoughts, ideas, etc. with anyone who wants to read them. It also kind of doubles as notes & reminders for when I do write that book.
Now, don't get me wrong, I think it's cool that people want to read my blog. I know I don't have tons of regular readers, but I'm fine with that. The fact that even a few people are interested enough in what I write about to read my blog on a regular basis is pretty awesome. In other words, while I write for me, not other people, it's nice to know that some people want to read what I write.

So, I'd like to take this chance to say "Thank You," to all of you who read this blog.



So here are the rules for accepting this award…



1. Accept the award. Post it on your blog with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.

2. Pay it forward to 15 other bloggers that you have newly discovered.

3. Contact those blog owners and let them know they’ve been chosen.



So I am passing on this award to the following great blogs: (in no particular order)

1. Adventures of a Home-School Mom
 
2. Community Homeschooling
 
3. Life's Adventures
 
4. Our Splendid Adventure
 
5. Riceball Mommy's Adventure in Motherhood
 
6. The Pagan Mom Blog
 
7. The History Chef
 
8. Anyway Because
 
9. Carla in the Country
 
10. Magic and Mayhem
 
11. Tales of a Kitchen Witch
 
12. Tantalizing Treats
 
13. Between Naps on the Porch
 
14. Rhonda's Homestyle Recipes
 
15. Crafts, Kids, Quilling - Inna's Creations
 
Have a wonderful day!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Week in Review

Ok, I cannot be one of those people that does a daily post about what we did for school each day. First, I can't promise that I'll post every single day. Sometimes, I post more than once a day. Sometimes, I go days without a post. My life is not some written in stone routine with everything planned out & everything going according to plan. It's not so much a time issue. I have time to play on Facebook, read, watch TV, do crafts, etc. I could easily take five minutes out of any of those activities to do a quick post about what school we got done that day. I wouldn't be able to do a 'what we did today' post until the end of the day. By the end of the day, my attention span is sometimes completely shot. Sometimes, I have no patience left by the end of the day & would get easily frustrated with any mistakes I made while typing.  Sometimes, I just don't feel like being on the computer at the end of the day.
Second, this blog was never meant to be just about homeschooling. It's not a diary of what schoolwork each of my kids do each day. It's a place for me to share whatever I feel like sharing that day. Sometimes, I want to share what we did for school. Sometimes, I want to share random thoughts in my head. Sometimes, I may want to share my feelings about something I'm passionate about. Sometimes, I may want to share a recipe, a book review, a movie review, a dream I had, or frustrations in dealing with someone. It's about my life, my family, my thoughts, not just about our homeschooling.

So, I will not do a daily post about what we did for school. However, I was thinking that I'd do one once or twice a week, about all the school we did during the week.
This week, we've been doing things a bit differently. The mornings are Dea's time with me. She doesn't have to do school with me, but if she needs help, wants to work with me, or a new topic is being introduced, the morning is her time to bring it to me. Jay spends the mornings watching dvds related to what he's learning, going on the computer to pre-approved sites (for school, of course), and doing independant work. After lunch, Jay works with me & Dea does her independant work & can use the computer for her schoolwork. We've also decided to let Jay choose what he does. I wrote down everything I want done for every topic we've planned to cover this yer, in every subject - every worksheet, Notebooking Page, project, experiment, etc. He gets to choose which ones he wants to do each day. There are a few rules ofr this plan: 1) Every subject needs to be done every week 2) Certain subjects need to be done in order (Latin, Math) 3) A resonable amount of time needs to be spent  on school each day. If he is not abiding by these rules, further limitations will be set in place, such as a specified amount of time for school each day & a minimum amount of work in each subject.
Here's what we did this week:
Jay
Science - finished the SchoolExpress units Spiders, Butterflies and Moths; did the School Express unit Fireflies; read 11 library books on insects; read Magic School Bus Inside a Beehive; watched 2 dvds I put together of various videos on insects & spiders as well as MSB episodes dealing with insects & spiders; finished all but 2 of his Insect & Spider Notebooking pages; worked on the poster boards for his insect & spider exhibit
Latin - chap 11 & 12 in Song School Latin
History - he's finished up Ancient Egypt, done the poster boards & figured out everything that will be in the exhibit; read the book that came with the Lift the Lid on Gladiators kit; did Gladiator Notebooking Page
Language Arts - lesson 6 in Explode the Code book 7; various online reading games & websites (i.e. Starfall); word games (i.e. Boggle, Hangman, Scrabble); 30 min quiet reading each day - this week he read Earth Mirth: The Ecology Riddle Book & Goosebumps Horrorland Heads, You Lose!
Math - we're working on graphing, he graphed candy each day - Gobstoppers, Starburst, Sweetarts, etc.
Art - we did a spore print. it didn't turn out exactly as i had hoped, but they enjoyed doing it.
Music - Jay listened to a variety of styles & genres of music

Dea
Math - 7 lessons in LOF
Science - research for her paper on Evolution vs Creation
Geography - 1 lesson Power Basics World Geography, research for project
Latin - one chap Oxford Latin Course
English - 10 lessons Easy Grammar 8; finished compare/contrast of 10 Things I Hate About You & The Taming of the Shrew; one lesson in Writing Strands 5
History - researched weapons & important people in WWII
Art - spore print (with Jay); Series Drawing; Bio on Jacob Lawrence

So, that's our week for school. I'm really hoping that both kids get more done next week. We all kind of slacked of Fri, so not much got done. Thursday was actually a pretty light day, too. Plus, Dea could have done a lot more, but she fought a lot this week.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Autumnal Equinox is coming!

I love Autumn. It is my favorite season. There is just something about it. Maybe it's the beautiful colors, the delicious aromas, the cool weather, crisp air, or the fact that Halloween (my all-time favorite holiday) & Thanksgiving (a great harvest festival when I get to spend time with loved ones & a reason for me to cook tons of food) are in Autumn. Whatever the reason, it has always been my favorite season. Even as a child when all the other kids were looking forward to Summer, I couldn't wait for Summer to be over so Autumn would get here.

So, I'm already decorating the house for Autumn. This weekend, I'll finish decorating the house & we'll do our Autumnal Equinox celebration. Since hubby's got to work all week, the weekend will be easiest for us to do our family thing. We each write two goals, for the season, on strips of paper and one for the whole family. The strips of paper are then hung from beautifully colored Autumn leaves around the house. We'll also do a hike at a local state park, collecting pinecones, acorns, and other items that we can use for decoration. We'll have a meal with delicious Autumn foods - apples, squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, corn on the cob, grilled meats, etc. I'm not sure exactly what we'll eat; I'll figure that out while I do grocery shopping today.

Hubby doesn't get into my change of season celebrations, but he doesn't get in the way of them, either. The kids love doing them & I feel drawn to celebrate the change of season. I only celebrate the days I feel drawn to celebrate. That's why I call myself an Eclectic Pagan, I don't truly follow any one path. I follow my heart & my gut, not the restrictions of any one spirtitual path. Anyway, I enjoy celebrating the Equinoxes & Solstices, but Autumn is my fave.

The kids & I will probably do something else for the Equinox on Tues. We normally do our family thing on the 21st, but our schedule is just too full right now to fit it in during the week.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ahh.... Autumn is here!

Alright, so it isn't technically here yet. Today is such an Autumn day, though. It was cloudy & overcast this morning, so we went out to play catch & soccer in the beautiful breezy weather. It started to sprinkle just as we got out there & started to really pour as we were getting ready to come in.  After drying off, we went to check on out spore print. Yesterday, we decided to do a spore print - place mushrooms on paper with a bowl over the mushrooms to prevent a breeze from blowing hte spores when they fall, leave overnight. Theoretically, when you take the mushrooms off the next morning, the spores have left a cool design which you can make permanent by spraying with hairspray oracrylic sealant. Well, there was some condensation buildup under the bowls, so there were large wet spots on the paper where the mushrooms were. They still looked kind of cool, though. So, I tried to spray with my can of acrylic sealant, only to find out that the can refuses to spray. So, hopefully the spores will stay where they are until I get a new can of sealant today or tomorrow. After that, we got to work.

Our new schedule is that I am available all morning for Dea, if she needs or wants my help on any subject. Jay spends the morning doing his quiet reading time, going online to educational (& pre-determined) sites, independant work, and watching dvds related to his studies. After lunch, I work with Jay on his school & Dea has to work independantly. Well, today Dea didn't need me for anything. So, I did some dishes, cleaned the kitchen, and whipped up some pumpkin bread. We haven't had pumpkin bread in months, and I miss it. The stores here don't carry canned pumpkin all year, only a few months. So, I stock up while they do have it. I didn't get enough last year, and I ran out. Last week, they finally had canned pumpkin again, so I bought some. Today just seemed like the perfect day to make some pumpkin bread.

After I put the poumpkin bread in the oven, I called the kids into the living room for a read aloud. Our featured Author this month is Jules Verne. I am reading A Journey ot the Center of the Earth. The kids wanted me to do it as a read aloud. So, as the amazing aroma of baking pumpkin bread filled the house, our fearless team was entering the crater of Mt Sneffels, preparing to descend into the subterraneous bowels of the Earth.

The cooler weather, the wonderful breeze, the beautiful rain, the intoxicating smells of pumpkin & apple (for some reason they just smell better in Autumn), all are signs that my favorite season is here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

No Math concerns

I had been a little concerned about the fact that Jay is ready to start the Multiplication book in his Math program. I had no reason to worry about it, but I was starting to anyway. My concern was that with moving so quickly through this program and the fact that we don't spend a lot of time doing formal review of previously coverd topics, that maybe he might have some trouble retaining the concepts over a long period of time. That concern was laid to rest this week when we did grocery shopping. We do our shopping at a few different stores. We get pop & a few other things at WalMart, some of our food at Hilander, and some at Aldi. We pull cash out to take to Aldi (it helps me keep to a specific budget). So, when we were at Aldi this week, I let Jay pay. The total came to $60.04. I handed Jay 3 20s to hand the cashier while I dug out a nickel. He handed them to her and said "20, 20, 20." She asked him how much that was & he did the math in his head & came up with the correct answer. We have done almost no formal review of addition since he started the Subtraction book last year. I think he's only done an addition worksheet once this year. He does play Math games on the computer, plus we play educational games all the time around here. So, he's getting informal practice that way. He proved to me this weekend that the informal practice he's getting is plenty. When your 1st grader is adding 3+ multi-digit numbers in their head, and they haven't done formal addition work in school since Kinder, there is no reason to worry that the Math concepts aren't sticking long-term.

I love the fact that he enjoys Math. I don't understand why he does (I hate Math), but I love that he does. He loves using Math whenever he can. He asks to weigh the produce every week at the store, even if the price is per item not per pound. He loves graphing things, reading the thermometer on his weather station, reading measurements for recipes, playing with Tangrams, Geoboards, and Equivalency Cubes (percents, decimals, & fractions). He enjoys practicing mental math. It's just so strange to have a kid enjoy Math that much. Dea never really enjoyed it, which I totally get since I have always found it boring & dull. My husband enjoys Math, too. I hope Jay continues to enjoy it. It will be much easier to get through the high school level Maths if he doesn't despise the subject like Dea does. Dea would be much further along with Math if it wasn't for her hatred of the subject. Since she hates it so much, she slacks on it, puts in no effort, and then has to redo it. So, it takes twice as long to get anything done. If she had a better attitude about it, she'd be at least a year ahead of where she is now in Math. If Jay continues to to enjoy Math, we won't have the fighting, crying, whining, arguements, slacking, etc. that we have endured from Dea for years when it comes to Math.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ancient Egyptian Feast & a hike in the woods

We couldn't find an Anceint Egyptian recipe that we wanted to make. So, we decided to do a small 'feast' of foods that they would have had. Well, it wasn't completely historically accurate, but still fun & we discussed the inaccuracies while we put it together. We had grapes, black olives, pita bread, roasted garlic hummus, and dates. We also had cheese, though I'm pretty sure that the Anceint Egyptians didn't have mozzerella balls marinated in olive oil & herbs or spreadable mozzerella with sun dried tomatoes and basil. We couldn't find figs, so we had Fig Newtons. As I said, our feast wasn't completely historically accurate, but it was fairly close.

After our mid-morning Anceint Egyptian feast, we went outside to play. We had a Silly String fight, hubby & the kids played ball tag, and we all played badminton. Then, we decided to go for a hike. We went to a nearby state park, hiked through the woods & collected shells by the river. I had an asthma attack on the way back to the car, but we made still made pretty decent time. We're going back next weekend to scope the park out a bit more. Then, we're going to plan a whole day there. The park is right next to a cemetary. So, my plan is to go do some grave stone rubbings, hike for a while, have a picnic in a clearing, play in the river, and maybe hike some more before we head home.

Considering I've been awake since about 1 am, it's been a very good day.

Dust

I love BzzAgent. Through them, I have been able to join campaigns to try out some really awesome products.
My current campaign is for the novel Dust by Joan Frances Turner. Well, more specifically, for the first 50 pages of Dust. I'll admit, my experience with zombies comes more from movies than from books, but I have read a few zombie books before. This one is different.

Most zombie stories are told from the human perspective. The zombies are mindless villians. It may not be their fault that they're monsters, but you never feel anything for them except disgust and hatred. Dust tells the story from the other side. It is told from the point of view of Jessie, a teenage girl who has been dead for 9 years. It shows zombies in a different light. The undead in this book think, communicate with each other, even have feelings.

However, it is still a zombie story. That means blood, guts, rotting flesh, and death. Everything you love about zombie stories seems to be here, you just get the added extra of an understanding of zombies so often lacking in this type of book.

Now, I have only read the first 50 pages, so I can't speak for the whole book. However, the section I read had no sex, no nudity, nothing inappropriate. There are some graphic descriptions of wounds & death, but if the typical horror stuff isn't your thing, you aren't likely to be reading a zombie book anyway.

This is a book I will be buying, as I think it will be a fun addition to our home library. It was just released on the Sept 7th. I also have it on hold at my library, just in case they get it in before I can buy it. Not only do I plan to finish reading it, but I'm also going to suggest it to my daughter. She's also a fan of horror, and I think she will really enjoy it.

I'll post a more detailed review after I've finished reading the whole book, as I plan to hold my final judgement until then.

In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the Dust or its author, visit the book's site.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

One of those days

Have you ever had one of those days? You know, the ones where things just keep going wrong.

Maybe it's because it's quarter after 2 in the morning. Maybe it's because I have 17 windows open on my computer. Maybe it's a combination of the two. I just can't seem to work the computer properly tonight, though. I keep closing the wrong windows. Then, I have to open them again, because I closed ones I still wanted to read. UGH! I think it's a sign that I should go to bed & try to get a few hours of sleep.

Good night, and I hope you all have a day that goes better than my 2am is going. ; )

Friday, September 10, 2010

Labels

Labels are what we use to define ourselves to the rest of the world. Stay-at-Home Mom, Secular Homeschooler, Christian, Pagan, Working Mom, etc. are all labels that we bestow upon ourselves to describe & define us to other people.
Some people get very touchy about 'Labels.' They complain about how the Dr wanted to 'Label' their child as having ADHD. They say that they don't want to be 'Labeled.' What they really mean is that they don't want the 'wrong' Labels. They don't want to use Labels that will make others think badly of them. They only want to use the Labels that they see as having 'good' connotations.
I don't care about Labels. I have no problem saying that my husband, both our kids, and I all have ADHD, or that all four of us are intellectually Gifted, because people's ignorant assumptions don't play any role in how I see myself, so I'm not afraid of their reactions to the Labels. I am a Secular Homeschooler, an Eclectic Pagan, a Stay-at-Home Mom, a Work-at-Home Mom, a Homemaker, Artistically Inclined, a fantastic Cook, a Poet, a Writer, Gifted, have ADHD, Independent, a Student, and more. I take on all these Labels proudly, regardless of their connotations.
What makes me different from those who are so touchy about 'Labels'? The difference is that they care what others think of them. They don't want the 'wrong' Labels because they care so much about how they appear to the rest of the world. I, on the other hand, don't care. It simply doesn't matter to me what other people think of me, with very few exceptions. There are a few people in my life whose opinion of me matters. It is a very small number, though. I honestly don't care what most people in my life think of me & what total strangers think of me doesn't matter at all.
I am who I am. I am not going to pretend to be something or someone else to fit in with the crowd. I am ME, and I am proud of who I am & what I have accomplished in my life. I don't shy away from Labels because they might affect people's opinions of me. If soemone doesn't like (or can't accept) some aspect of who I am or a Label I accept & use, that's not my problem. The way I see it, it's their loss, not mine.
So, when I read posts with people complaining about how they don't want their child 'Labeled' with something or they don't like this 'Label' or that 'Label,' I can't help but feel a little sorry for them. As an adolescent, I cared about how others saw me. I tried to hide my intelligence (or at least to hide most of it), tried to get interested in those mundane things my classmates & friends found so fascinating, tried to be someone else. When I read those posts complaining about Labels, I flash back to that time in my life (as brief as it was) when I cared what others thought of me, and it truly makes me sad. That short time in my life was horrible. I can't imagine living my whole life like that, worrying constantly about what other people think of me. How miserable they must be.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lite week

Hubby was home most of the week, so we didn't focus much on schoolwork. We've done some work, but really focused more on doing some stuff around the house (& trying to get rid of this awful cold). Next week is when Jay will start his new 'schedule.' So, I'm basically just trying to finish up Ancient Egypt before then. Dea has focused more on school, but still hasn't done as much as she normally would in a week.

Jay has a headache this morning. He's currently in my bed trying to get rid of his headache. That's ok with me. I get to spend the morning working on some things I want done. I'm moving the school bookcase & some of the arts & crafts supplies to the dining room, now that the piano is out of there. I'm also getting some dishes done. I haven't done dishes much this week, and I'm apparently the only one who knows how to do them. So, we're a bit behind on dishes & I want to get caught up.

I should be done with moving stuff around by lunch. Hopefully, Jay's headache will be gone by lunch. That way, we can get some of his school done this afternoon. If we do, we'll just focus on his Ancient Egypt  Notebooking Pages. Tomorrow & this weekend, we'll do the poster boards & figure out the exhibits. We should be able to do his museum next weekend.

Some time, by the end of the weekend, Dea needs to watch 10 Things I Hate About You. She's going to do a compare & contrast of that & Taming of the Shrew. Next week, she'll start reading A Doll's House.

The Piano is gone!

Well, kind of. My mom gave us a piano, all we had to do was pay for it to be delivered. She didn't want it anymore & she tends to give us stuff she doesn't want. I was really happy about it, at first. I figured it would need to be tuned, but then we could find a teacher for the kids & they could learn to play.
However, things don't always go as planned. Not only did it need to be tuned, but there were several other problems with it, as well. We weren't going to be able to afford to have it fixed. Add to that the fact that it took up quite a bit of room that could be used for something we could actually use. So, we tried to get rid of it. Apparently, nobody wants a piano that needs to be fixed, even if it's free. I wasn't going to charge for it. They would simply have needed to pick it up or hire piano movers to get it out of my house.
I wanted it gone by the time our current school year started. When the year started, though, it was still here. It's kind of gone now, though. We took it apart. We're going to reuse most of the wood for other things, some decorative, some functional. The parts that we can't use are going in the garbage (some have already been picked up).
This wasn't what we wanted to do, but we just don't have the room for a piano that we can't use. I would have preferred that it went to a nice home, but no one wanted it. At least most of it will be recycled into other items, though. We're planning to make a worktable, some shelves, and maybe a headboard or two from the wood.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Changes, Again

Well, I'm making yet another change. This one deals specifically with Jay & the way I schedule his work. Basically, I'm going to stop doing the detailed weekly schedules for him. I am pretty good at scheduling an appropriate amount of work for him to be able to work at his own pace. However, he generally wants to do more in some subjects (and it always seems to be different subjects). So, I've decided to do it a little differently. I'm going to do a detailed list of everything I want done, on each topic, in each subject - every work book page, project, experiment, lesson, and chapter. As we do each item, we'll write the date(s) we did it next to the item on the list. We'll also keep a list of all the library books, dvds, and websites we use. This will allow him to decide how much work to do each day & what work he does each day.
There will be some restrictions on this. Some things will need to be done in order - like his Latin & Math books. There will be a minimum amount of time spent on school each day (haven't decided on the time minimum yet). Each subject will be done each week; so he can't spend all week doing just Science or just History. However, it will still allow him more freedom.

I think this will work for us. He is very motivated, loves learning, and is always wanting to do more. So, I think that by letting him choose from the list, instead of telling him "this is what we're going to do today," will allow him the control he wants, without just handing over control completely. It seems like a great compromise.