Monday, October 31, 2011


We tend to eat a bit less healthy at Halloween. I'm big on balance and allowing anything we enjoy eating, as long as it's in moderation. Since we eat pretty healthy most days, I don't worry much if holidays have some less healthy foods. Here are the Halloween themed foods we've had this year:

Bloody popcorn:
None of us react to red food dye, so I mixed some into the butter before pouring it on the popcorn. Then, I put some food dye on a paper towel & wrapped it around my finger. When I carried the kids their bowls of popcorn, with the paper towel wrapped around my finger, I said "I guess some of the the blood from cutting my finger ended up in the popcorn. You guys don't mind, do you?" They responded with "Of course not! After all, we are vampires." Not quite the reaction I was looking for. It was a fun treat while we watched a movie, though.

Broiled mummy fingers:
Mini sausages, chopped bacon, cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, and a sprinkle of brown sugar.

Minotaur brains:
Steamed cauliflower with cheese sauce (with a little red dye in the sauce)

Fried maggots with dragon eyes:
Fried rice, sliced jumbo black olives, and halved fresh mozzarella balls (cherry-sized)

Blood Punch:
A 2-Liter or 7Up mixed with a bottle of Pomegranate Juice

We also had zombie flesh tacos, but I didn't get pictures of those. The tacos were made with thin sliced meat instead of ground meat.

Here's our pumpkin, we still need to roast the seeds:

We don't Trick-or-Treat, but we do dress up. We did spooky Mad Libs and played Harry Potter Scene It. The kids jumped out from behind a tree to scare passing cars. The kids will be going to bed soon, and tomorrow all the Halloween specific decorations come down.

Happy HALLOWEEN/SAMHAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

My thoughts on School-at-Home

This one will probably be the easiest to write. My thoughts & feelings are pretty well set.

This method works for some. If you are using it because it works, great. However, if you are using it because you truly feel that it is the only way to get a proper education or because you don't understand your many options, I suggest doing some research (with an open mind).

Now, let me first lay out what I mean when I say School-at-Home. Then, I'll explain what I do and don't like about it. This is what I envision when I think of School-at-Home:
Typical scope & sequence of the public school, even if accelerated or slowed down to accommodate the student
Use of textbooks (especially the same one public schools use) and/or workbooks for most or all subjects
Set amount of time for each subject, often with very short or no breaks between
Most of day spent at desk or dining room table
Mom (or dad) has teacher edition/answer key and 'teaches' the lessons while the child sits & listens, possibly taking notes, all discussion (if allowed at all) held to end of lesson
Most or all assignments are graded
Tests are common in most or all subjects
Lesson plans and not allowing student to stray from plans are common
Book reports, recess, and homework are words I would only expect from school-at-home style homeschoolers

Concern about 'keeping up' with public school peers is common.

As you can tell, I see School-at-Home very much like school, but at home. Now that we know what I mean when I say School-at-Home, let me say what I think about it.

*I think it's too rigid. I think that most students would benefit from at least some deviation from this. I know it works for some, but it's not a method I would use.

On a personal note:
The way public schools do things didn't work for me (and that's also counting the Gifted program which used more hands-on work & involved a bit more critical thinking & creative work). It wouldn't work for my kids, either.
It is way too rigid for us. Yes, we need some routine, schedule, and stability. However, we also need some freedom & flexibility.
I am not a fan of textbooks for most subjects, especially in the elementary years. 
My kids would be bored out of their minds and would rebel if we used workbooks & textbooks for most/all subjects.
I don't feel that textbooks and workbooks offer the opportunities to use higher forms of thinking & learning.
My kids are not 'average' or 'typical.' Therefore, they don't progress at the same rate as their same age peers. Plus, I prefer a different scope & sequence than that used in public schools. So, the public school scope & sequence, expectations, and rate of progression simply would not work for us.
Most importantly, I want better for my kids than the public school can offer. Therefore, using their methods, materials, scope & sequence, expectations, and one-size-fits-all mentality doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

Now, as I said, if this method works for you, use it. However, if your only reason for using this method is lack of understanding of the options or because it's what seems most familiar, look into other ways of educating. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Duct Tape Day

Q. What do you get when you take a house full of people, with ages ranging from 7 to mid-thirties, and give them 18 rolls of Duct Tape?

A. Purses, wallets, flowers, hats, bookmarks, cigarette cases, laptop bags, etc., etc., etc.............

............ and lots of fun!

Monday, October 17, 2011

My Thoughts on Charlotte Mason Education

There's actually quite a lot about Charlotte Mason Education that I like. It suggests short lessons for younger kids. It prefers living books over textbooks whenever possible. It expects foreign language to be taught. It does not rely on rote memorization. When done right, it can be a quite rigorous education.

The Science seems to be mainly Nature Studies, in the younger years, but I think that is more about interpretation. I think you could focus on other areas of Science, do plenty of experiments & explorations, and still be considered the Charlotte Mason method. The method seems to lean toward more exploration & discovery in Science and less dry textbook learning. At least, that's how I see it. So, I don't think it has to be just Nature Studies.

This is another that really pushes reading the Classics. Now, it doesn't say just the Classics, but does say just good literature. Of course, you all know that I disagree with limiting children's reading in such a way. Yes, have them read good literature, have them read the Classics, but also allow some fluff (it won't hurt).

I think that my biggest problem is really that some aspects of Language Arts aren't really focused on. There seems to be the mentality that things like Spelling & Grammar will be picked up if they are reading plenty of well-written works. I simply don't agree with that idea.

I like that Writing is started with oral narrations, but I'm not sure that actual writing should wait until age 10. Maybe due to how many problems my daughter has with Writing, I think they need to start earlier.

I'm not a fan of copywork. I really just don't see a need for it if they are writing in their various subjects. If they were not writing in their other subjects, then I could see needing to have a focus on penmanship. I expect my kids to write in most subjects, though. So, copywork would be excessive for us.

So, overall, I like the Charlotte Mason method. I agree with much of the philosophy behind it. There are just a few things that I would tweak.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Apple Orchard & Other Fun Stuff

Yesterday, we went to the Apple Orchard. We started at the petting zoo:

These goats are always in the corner. Last time, there was one standing with his nose pressed in the corner. We've decided that the goats must be naughty, as they always seem to be in time out...

Here's the rather shaggy looking young cow:

Most of the chickens:

I think this chicken has a bit of an identity crisis, though:

He wasn't in with the rest of the chickens. Instead, he was in with these guys:

After the petting zoo, the kids played on the playground & did the maze. Then, we picked Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and Jonagold apples. We were good and only ate a few apples while we picked. Next, we headed into the store where we let the kids pick out some candy, got a gallon of apple cider, and (of course) a dozen warm apple cider donuts. We each ate one donut & the kids played some more on the playground before we left.
On the way home, this is what the sky looked like:
Isn't it beautiful?

This morning, the kids were up early. I got Jay to go back to bed, but Dea couldn't fall asleep. She took the puppy out to watch the sunrise. She took the camera with and got a few good shots of the sunrise:

Some of the dog, watching the sunrise:

And a few of the squirrel that came to watch the sunrise with them:

This afternoon, Jay spent some time alone in the school room. He's almost never quiet, even when he's asleep. So, I'm usually a bit concerned when he gets quiet like that. When I went into the room, this is what I saw:

He made a scarecrow! Isn't it adorable? The eyes are the eyes from a toy we bought the puppy. She ripped the eyes off, so Jay figured he could use them. He set them on top of the eyes of the stuffed Jack-o-Lantern he used as the head.

Monday, October 10, 2011


We decided to try out Aleks, for Math. Really, the only reason we considered it was the fact that they were offering a 2 month free trial. 2 months seemed like a long enough time to really get a feel for how the kids like something and how well it works for them. I don't like short trials. My kids love something for the novelty of it, but that can wear off after a month or two. So, trials that are a lesson, a day, or even a week can be more challenging to figure out. With some things, we can tell right away that we don't like them or that they aren't challenging enough. However, some things can seem cool at first, but interest wanes fast. So, since this program had a decent trial period, I decided it was worth trying out.

This should be our last full week of our Aleks trial. We will not be continuing with it after the trial is done. This is not an inexpensive program. It is $20 a month, $100 for 6 months, or $180 for a full year. That's just for 1 student. There are discounts for more than one student for the 6 month & 1 year plans. However, it would still be $170 for both kids for 6 months and just over $300 for both kids for a year.

Now, a note about price:

Aleks is not an overly expensive program. It is pretty much mid-priced compared to other Math programs.

Saxon is a pretty popular Math program. Saxon ranges from about $69 to about $120 per level, not counting the manipulatives for the lower levels.

Singapore is another popular one. It seems that you need to purchase that one in pieces, and it appears that it can get up to $160 for one level (this is, of course, dependent on the level).

Math-U-See costs anywhere from $65 to $120 per level, without manipulatives.

Mastering Mathematics, the program we're using for Jay, covers 1st-6th grade Math and cost me less than $150 (and came with games, flashcards, & manipulatives).

Life of Fred, which Dea has been using & Jay will start next year (he'll do the LOF Fractions and Decimals & Percents books alongside the Mastering Mathematics books on the same topics, and will then continue with LOF Pre-Algebra books & up), ranges from $19 to $55 per level.

VideoText Algebra & Geometry costs about $100 per module. Each full course consists of 6 modules. It does say that the Algebra course covers 3 years of Algebra (Pre-Algebra, Alg 1, & Alg 2) and the Geometry course can be used as Geometry & Pre-Calc. They also offer a discount. All of Algebra or Geometry for $529.

Considering we've been using Life of Fred and Mastering Mathematics, it would take some serious benefits to convince me to switch to something so much more expensive. Aleks, while not a bad program, has not convinced to me to spend that much money.

The lowest level Aleks offers is 3rd grade. Since Jay is in 2nd grade, it made sense to start him in the lowest level available. As of his last assessment on Aleks, he has mastered 35% of the 3rd grade material. Aleks uses the traditional scope & sequence of the public schools. Mastering Mathematics, which he's been using since Kindergarten, is a mastery approach. This means that, while he is well ahead in some concepts (like learning long division), he has little to no experience with other concepts (like fractions and geometry concepts). So, the assessments at Aleks are not 100% accurate for him, since it won't allow him to do certain things that he can do and grades on things his regular program hasn't introduced yet. His original assessment put him at 22%, and he's only done about 13 hours total on the site. I'd say that a 13% increase in 13 hours is good progress.

Dea, is not good with tests. She gets so worried about getting something wrong that she freezes up. Plus, she  lacks effort when the subject/topic is not of interest to her. So, I was not surprised when her initial assessment on Aleks put her at 20% in Algebra. Her most recent assessment has her at 42%, and she has only spent about 23 1/2 hours on it. That is also a decent increase.

My biggest problem is that it won't allow them to study certain things. Dea still has topics in the Arithmetic Readiness section that it will not allow her to do yet. It has decided that she has to prove mastery of topics in other areas before finishing the last 2 topics in Arithmetic Readiness. I have no doubt that she could easily finish off those last 2 topics, but it won't let her.

My kids simply don't follow a typical scope & sequence, and this program does. This prevents them from being able to truly move at their own pace. Since the assessments leave out some things that my kids know, they are not accurate measures of where my kids are & what they know.

Even if I liked this program, it still wouldn't work for the kids. The novelty has worn off, and they are bored with it. It takes more reminders every day to get them on it. Dea has been working through the Algebra text my sis used in college last year, and prefers that to doing Aleks.

The kids' lack of interest in the program, the lack of truly individualized learning, not allowing them to work at their own pace, and price combine to create one conclusion - this program is not worth the jump in annual cost for Math for us.

I am not saying that this is not a good program. I'm not saying that it isn't worth the cost. All I'm saying is that it does not have all the elements that I am looking for in a Math program, and is too expensive for me to justify the price if we would still need to use other materials.

My Thoughts on Classical Education

First, let me say that I have no doubts that Classical Education works for some. There are some aspects on which I agree with it, but also some I don't like. However, my biggest reason for not really ever considering this method is simply that it would never work for MY kids.

What I like about it:
I like that it expects foreign languages at a young age. I think that too many people wait until Jr High or High School to start foreign languages. If a person is not already familiar with at least one foreign language by about puberty, they will have a much more difficult time in learning any other languages. This is proven. Now, I don't think that Latin, Ancient Greek, or other dead languages need to be started in preschool years, as some people do. Truly, I think that starting them on foreign languages before 5 or 6 should be for reasons such as living in a bilingual household, having family or close family friends that speak another language, or living in an area that is largely bilingual. Starting ASL at pretty much any age is also understandable, especially if the child is struggling or delayed verbally or if they will need ASL to communicate with someone close to them (such as family member, close family friend, their babysitter's child, etc.). However, the dead languages don't really have much use in the life of most 3 year olds. Therefore, I see no point in starting them on those languages prior to Kindergarten or 1st grade. Of course, this may be partially due to the fact that, when my kids learn a language, I expect them to be fluent in it - reading, writing, and speaking - which requires more in-depth study than simply learning vocabulary.
I like that it places a strong emphasis on History & Science. Many people don't really feel that both of those subjects are of equal import as Math & Language Arts.
I like that it expects History & Science topics to be covered more than once.

What I dislike about it:
I dislike the 4-year rotation for History & Science. I feel that it limits what can be covered in those subjects, doesn't allow for rabbit trails, and never truly allows real in-depth study of any specific topic, providing just an overview.
I dislike the emphasis on memorization, especially rote memorization. The Well-Trained Mind website actually says that children in the Grammar stage enjoy memorization & that the focus of those years should be on memorizing facts regardless of whether or not the child has any understanding of them. NO, NO, NO, NO! I can not say NO loud enough or enough times to a sentiment such as that!
       Now, for a quick offshoot on my feelings regarding rote memorization. Memorization is the lowest form of thinking & learning. It should be used sparingly. Rote memorization is torture to a thinking human being. Rote memorization is sitting there with the Multiplication Table in front of you repeating over and over: 1 times 1 is 1, 1 times 2 is 2, 1 times 3 is 3, etc. Rote memorization is doing drills with flashcards to memorize the content. Rote memorization is NOT fun. Applying the concepts in order to play a game is not the same thing as Rote Memorization. Playing fun Math games, like Timez Attack, is not Rote Memorization. It is placing those facts into long-term memory while building speed & fluency through the application of the Mathematical concept. There is a huge difference. I would NEVER force rote memorization on my child. We use flashcards & do drills ONLY if they want to. I do not require them to memorize their Math facts before moving on to the next concept. My son is currently learning long division, and still plays multiplication games to build his speed & fluency with multiplication. He might not be able to spit out the answer to any random multiplication problem in 3 seconds or less, but he can multiply any positive, non fractional, numbers you can give him, often doing multi-digit multiplication in his head. In my opinion, that is much more important than being able to rattle off the entire multiplication tables due to hours of wasted time & energy of rote memorization. I don't pass judgment on others for using Rote Memorization. If that's how you want to do things, that's fine. However, I find Rote Memorization a complete waste of our time.
I dislike the fact that it doesn't feel that Art and Music are important enough to warrant yearly coverage.
I truly dislike its dependence on textbooks & workbooks.
I dislike that it assumes that visual learning is passive and therefore useless. Visual learning does not have to be passive, if it is used correctly.
I dislike the emphasis on reading the Classics. I am not saying that we should not expect our children to read the Classics. I simply disagree with anything that says that the Classics should make up all or most of what a child reads. Not all the Classics are good, and not all will appeal to everyone. I can find just as many grammatical errors in some Classics as I can in some recent books. I personally hated Jane Eyre. I don't care what anyone says about how much merit it has. I couldn't stop comparing it to the Twilight series. There is nothing wrong with reading modern works. There is nothing wrong with reading works that have no real merit, as long as you can discern that they have no real merit. The books our children read should not be limited in this way.

Probably my biggest dislike about this method, though, is the fact that so many (especially many of those using the Classical Method) assume that it is automatically more academically rigorous than EVERYTHING else.

Final thoughts:
Despite what I consider to be the cons of this method, I don't think it is a bad method of education. Each of us has our own expectations & ideals for education. This method simply doesn't meet mine. I feel it lacks the flexibility my family needs. It also wouldn't work for my kids due to the fact that their development is not on the same timetable this method uses.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Halloween - It's Not and Never Will Be a Christian Holiday - Get Over It!

I am a huge fan of Halloween. It is, and always has been, my favorite holiday. I truly hate the way that society is trying to ruin my holiday. First, they stopped allowing students to wear their costumes to school. Then, they put in place these ridiculous time limits on Trick-or-Treating. Now, some places have put age limitations on Trick-or-Treating. Plus, many people don't even hand out candy anymore, which makes Trick-or-Treating even more of a hassle.

As if the cities, and people's apathy aren't doing enough damage, you have the churches that do those stupid 'Christianize the Pagan holiday' celebrations. If you don't want your kid to celebrate Halloween because it's a Pagan holiday, fine. Don't celebrate, but don't think that taking them to some stupid Christianized Halloween celebration at a church isn't completely hypocritical. It's still a Halloween celebration, and Halloween is a Pagan holiday. It doesn't matter how many Bible passages you throw at kids on that day, or if you force them to go to a church to celebrate, or if you only allow stupid 'non-scary' and non-occult/Pagan themed costumes like angels, princesses, and Spongebob. Halloween is still a Pagan holiday, with Pagan roots, Pagan symbols, Pagan traditions, and it will always be a Pagan holiday. It doesn't matter how many pathetic ordinances you get passed regarding time & age limits on Trick-or-Treating, or how many churches offer 'Christian' celebrations on Halloween, or whatever other inane crap you throw at us. Halloween is a Pagan holiday and it always will be. Halloween is not about the candy. It is not about finding 'cute' costumes. It's not about showcasing YOUR talents & creativity by making better costumes than the other moms you know.

Halloween is NOT the time for you to spew your anti-any religion other than yours propaganda. How would you like it if other religions attacked your beliefs, your ancestors, your history on Christmas? Seriously, how would you like it if a bunch of Pagan organizations - Satanic Churches, Wiccan Temples, etc. - decided to start doing a Pagan version of Christmas, on Christmas day, and widely advertised it as 'The Pagan Alternative to Christmas'? I bet you'd throw a damn fit. I bet you'd be all over the internet, writing to your newspapers, having your church speak out against it, even contacting TV stations to broadcast your bitch-fit about how wrong it is. Yet, we're expected to sit quietly by and allow you to stomp all over our beliefs & traditions. We're expected to just say "Oh look, isn't it nice that the Christian church is yet again trying to force their agenda and again trying to take over OUR HOLIDAY!

I'm not expecting that everyone that celebrates Halloween will have a true understanding of it's roots. I'm not expecting that everyone that celebrates it is a Pagan. I'm neither stupid nor naive. However, you can at least have the decency to stop trying to take over this Pagan holiday with your Christian beliefs. You can have the decency to stop trying to shove your religion down my throat, especially since I don't try to shove my beliefs down yours. If you want to celebrate Halloween, fine. If you want to only allow 'nice' costumes, fine. If you want to shut off your porch light, not hand out candy, and ignore the holiday, fine. However, taking your kids to a celebration of a Pagan holiday, at a church, is still hypocritical. Handing out religious tracts/pamphlets/Bible passages with or instead of candy is extremely disrespectful, and you would be better off not handing out anything. I don't try to convert your kids to Paganism, so stop trying to convert mine to Christianity (Though, I don't know that it would really count as converting, since my kids have not yet chosen a religion, and are currently religion neutral. The point remains the same, though).

Let me just say, I am not anti-Christian. I am Anti-pushing your religion on everyone else because you think that your opinion & your rights outweigh those of everyone else. I have nothing against Christians, or people of any other religion celebrating Halloween. I am against trying to turn it into a Christian holiday and/or using it as an excuse to force your beliefs on other people. I know that not all Christians are like this. This rant is not directed at those who DON'T shove their religion down others' throats. It is directed at those who do (and really, those people likely aren't reading my blog, anyway).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Schooling Update

I haven't posted much on here about our schooling lately. So, I thought I'd do a quick update.

Dea really doesn't like the program we're using for Writing. I bought it because it is thorough, step-by-step, and an intensive program. Writing is the area that she struggles with the most. So, I figured that something that is this thorough & step-by-step would be good for her. She really doesn't like it, though. The problem with that is that when Dea doesn't like a program, she will purposefully do a crappy job on her assignments. Instead of coming to me & saying "Mom, I really am not happy with this program. The things I don't like about it are X, Y, and Z. Is there something we can do about this, or can we look for a different program," she whines, cries, and has temper tantrums. Then, she does a half-assed job on every assignment in it. She can't just suck it up and deal with it for this year, and help me find something more suited to her for next year. She can't just act like a freaking halfway mature person and speak to me about it. She has to act like a toddler. So, we just happen to find a Writing course (well, several actually) that we can access free through the library. It has an actual instructor who seems to be pretty understanding about Dea's issues in this area. Dea wanted to try, so I let her sign up. At this point, all I can do is hope that this works out. So, she is doing that for Writing & Grammar (the course she's currently working on covers both). She's also taking a course on dog training, so she can train the new puppy. We got a free 2 month trial of Aleks, which will end in about a week. She has been doing that for Math. She is still doing her Oxford Latin and Latin For Children with Jay. She is currently reading The Odyssey and doing an assignment for it (writing Jeopardy-style questions in at least 5 categories, with a minimum of 5 questions per category).

Jay has also been doing the free trial of Aleks. He's doing that 4 days a week and a page from Defeating Division 1 day a week. He has been continuing with Easy Grammar, Grammar Tales, Tell Me More Spanish, ASL, Discover the Deck, and Logo Adventures. He has been reading tons of books, as usual. We have not been very good about getting Spelling done every day, so he's not done with level 1 of AAS yet. He's almost done with level 1, though. He's stopped guitar & taken up Native American flute. He hates one of the programs we were using for Geography, so we're trying something different. We're currently reviewing the Latin he's done up to now. I'm trying to take a more relaxed approach with him. I work with him every day to make sure that Language Arts, Math, Latin, Science, and History get done. Then, I'd like to leave the rest up to him. If he is doing each of the other subjects regularly, at least once a week, I'd like to continue it that way. This allows him the freedom he craves and still provides the structure he needs. The subjects that would be let to him are ones that either I don't find terribly necessary or that he has so much interest in that I know he'll do them. So, we've been working on making that idea work for us.

As for me, I am also taking a few classes through the online school we get access to through the library. I'm taking a class on Nutrition. I'm not exactly a newbie to the topic, but figured a class couldn't hurt. I'm taking a class on haunted places, because it's a fun topic. I've also signed up for a class on Interior Decorating. We're redecorating the kids' bedrooms, and thought I might get some good info or ideas from this class.

So, that's my quick update on what we're doing around here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

My Thoughts on Unschooling

I'm rather undecided about Unschooling. On one hand, I think that Unschooling would have been a great option for me. Most of what I learned, during my childhood, was not learned in school. I think that, had people just provided the materials I wanted, made sure I had plenty of opportunities, and got out of my way, I would have recieved a much better education.

On the other hand, I don't think that most kids would get a well-rounded education with Unschooling. Unschooling is child-led. That means that the child only has to learn what the child wants to learn. Well, what about the subjects that are important but that the child has no interest in learning? Of course, the biggest argument used is that the child will find out what needs to be learned for the path they want to take & will then learn the necessary subjects. My issue with that is that most people don't decide what they are going to do with their life at a young age. So, if the child doesn't decide what they want to do until they are 15 or 16, that only leaves them 2 years to make sure they have studied every subject required to get into the college they want or that would be needed for whatever path they plan to persue. That's a rather short time to learn everything you need for that next step of your journey. If the parent was guiding the child's education, they could have made sure that the important areas were covered throughout the child's education, meaning no last minute cramming.

On still another hand, I think that Unschooling can be used to some degree, with success, regardless of the child. I think that unschooling should be used until (and possibly through) Kindergarten. Until then, there is no reason to force a child to learn specific things. Let their natural curiosity take the lead & you may be surprised how much they learn. I also think that Unschooling, for certain subjects, would be alright in the lower grades. It won't harm a child to not have a formal education in Social Studies, Science, Art, and Music for the first few years. Their natural curiosity will help them form a solid base to build on. By 4th grade, however, they should be receiving a formal education in all subjects. Or, you could go the other way. Start a formal education in 1st, build a strong foundation, then consider unschooling for high school. If a child has the motivation, a sense of who they are & what they want, and a strong, solid foudation of knowledge, Unschooling could be a good option for high school.

On yet another hand (yeah, I know, I've got a few extra hands here), I can see the possibility of total lack of education if the child doesn't have the intrinsic motivation and/or the parent is not willing or capable of providing the opportunities and materials needed. This would be especially possible in a state that has very relaxed homeschool laws, where they don't have to report or test. In those states, it would be only too easy for a family to say that they are unschoolers, but not put any effort into providing an education of any kind (and with no reporting or testing, who would know). Now, I love the freedom of the homeschool laws in my state & would hate to have to waste time on paperwork for the state or have to force my kids to take standardized tests, especially if the laws changed due to dishonest people who were abusing those freedoms.

Of course, there's also the issue of the differing definitions of Unschooling. Some define it as following the child's lead. If the child wants to use a textbook for a subject, they can. Others say that true Unschooling uses no textbooks, worksheets, or other 'schooly' materials. This is the definition that I dislike the most. These are the ones I feel are most at risk of an inferior education. To refuse the child to use textbooks or workbooks, is unintelligent at best. To not prepare them for the tests and work that will be required in college is doing them a disservice. It is also a disservice to allow them to live an entirely egocentric life, where they don't have to do anything they don't want to do or follow any kind of schedule.

As I said, I'm undecided on Unschooling. Basically, I see some benefits of using it at certain times or in certain situations. However, I see way too much possibility of inferior education, children unprepared for life as an adult, and educational neglect under the guise of being an Unschooling family. It's kind of like organized religion - there are some good ideas at the core, but then people got hold of it & screwed it up.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Our Autumn Wreath

This is what our Autumn wreath looks like after this year's additions:


I have never been big on reading out loud. I have to slow down so much to read at a pace others can follow that it is just not an enjoyable experience for me. Despite my dislike of doing read-alouds, I've always made an effort to read to the kids. Jay did not like being read to when he was younger. He does enjoy it now, though. Since both kids are reading quite well independently, I would love to give up read-alouds completely. However, the kids enjoy them.

Right now, we're reading The Education of Little Tree. We're also reading from The Girl Who Helped Thunder and Other Native American Folktales, a few stories a day. Jay has really gotten into poetry lately, so we've been reading some poetry every day, too. Right now, we're reading from When the Rain Sings: Poems by Young Native Americans and First Food Fight This Fall and Other School Poems. We just borrowed Every Thing On It from the library, so that will get worked in to the daily reading as well.

In addition to all of that, we'll be doing several books/stories as read-alouds for Halloween. Today it was The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. At the library yesterday, we picked up Something Wicked This Way Comes, Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween, Nightmares: Poems to Trouble Your Sleep, A Night in the Lonesome October, The Halloween Tree, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, The Headless Haunt and Other African-American Ghost Stories, The Witches, Camp Creepy Time, Nighttime: Too Dark to See, and Nighttime: Too Scared to Sleep, and those are just the ones for read-alouds.

For someone who doesn't enjoy reading-aloud, I sure have been doing a lot of lately.