Category Archives: Home School

Laughing 14

From the famous mouth of our youngest….

(Not wanting to look up the word “city” in the dictionary, he proclaims that he already knows the definition!)  “City – A city is a place that has lots of fancy clothes and has lots of stores, has airplanes, has a lot of bridges, and it has alot and alot of TOYS!”

The dictionary’s version:  “city – a large important center of population and business activity”

I would say he’s pretty close, wouldn’t you? 🙂

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Happy 13th Day of School!

Yes, it is already Day #13 here.  We start early in order to take the month of December off…it makes for a much more enjoyable holiday season!

It is already our 6th year of homeschooling too.  Wow!  I can hardly believe we’ve been doing it for six years!

There have definately been “ups” and “downs” along the way, however some of the bumps are smoothing out as I figure out what works best for us and adapt.

We’ve tried various curriculum and even virtual schooling, but finally settled on these for this year:

Bible – “Who is God?  And Can I Really Know Him?”, Volume 1 of the “What We Believe” series written by John Hay and David Webb.  I’ve tried various short bible studies and devotional books with the boys.  We’ve also taken time to learn the books of the bible and just read bible stories, however the main goal in doing any of this is that they would grasp the concept of having a personal relationship with the Lord.  My prayer is that they would not only have “head knowledge”, but mostly “heart knowledge” of the Lord, His grace-filled ways, and the purpose for their lives.  Learning to see the world through a biblical viewpoint, rather than a worldly view, is something I was not taught at a young age.  Hopefully doing this for my boys will save them many self-inflicted trials and point them toward service to others and to God.

Lesson #1 and #2 have been very engaging so far.  The boys seem to grasp what the book is teaching very well.  It is written in plain, everyday language and includes activities and stories to which they can relate.  On top of that, they keep a notebook for recording vocabulary words, insightful opinions and expressions about different topics, and memorize scripture each week.  It was very encouraging once this past week to see my youngest have his first “A-Ha!” moment about satan and God.  I am praying that God would use the material in this book and in our schooling to reach his heart in such a way that I have not been able to explain.  So far, so good!

Art –  We’ll be doing various artsy type things.  One book I found at a thrift store is “Exploring Textures in Watercolor” by Joye Moon.  I will be painting right alongside the boys as we work our way through this book…..sort of a “perk” for me to be learning too, instead of just teaching!

Texas History – We are using “The Story of Texas” by Harcourt Brace along with “Discover Texas”, a CD based history program.  Also included in the plan are adding two smaller unit studies on Cowboys and Indians.  Each of the boys will be making a list of all the places we study in Texas.  Towards the end of the school year, they will be able to choose one place on the list to visit in person.  “Hands-on” makes the best learning!

This is a class easily combined for both grade levels.  I think public schoolers in Texas usually do it in 4th grade, so in comparison, one of mine will be a year early and the other a year later than their peers.  It saves me aLOT of time to be able to combine a few subjects.  I just adjust the assignments and activities as needed for each grade level.

Language Arts – Grammar          “Easy Grammar” by Easy Grammar Systems, Scottsdale, Arizona   We tested this last year and found it to truly be “easy”, yet still challenging.  I love the way it teaches prepositions first so that the other parts of speech are more easily recognizable.  Once you mark out the prepositional phrases first, it is easy to spot the subject and verb.  Also, although both boys are doing separate grade levels in this curriculum, the chapters are arranged similarly so I can usually teach both at the same time.

Language Arts – Writing    This subject, I understand, is a common sore spot in every homeschooler’s plan.  Even public school students and parents struggle with writing, mainly because they don’t do enough of it!  (my opinion)  Kids, especially elementary age kids, just. don’t. want. to. write!  We’ve had many struggles with it.  Although I love to write, trying to teach my boys to do it has been pretty difficult.  Til this year, what we’ve tried to do did not have organization or depth.  Now, we are trying a new curriculum shared by my friend that seems to be just what we needed.  It will teach writing concepts at a self-paced/mastery plan and the same concepts will be used to build upon all the way through high school.  Consistency in a long term plan seems the way to go in order for writing skills to be developed.  It is the “Institute of Excellence in Writing” program.

Language Arts – Spelling     Last year, we used a spelling program that had lots of activities and colorful pages.  It also seemed a bit expensive when paired with other homeschooling expenses we had.  This year, I found a year’s list of grade appropriate spelling words online and decided to use it for free 🙂  The word list came from K12Reader.com.  I simply printed the year’s lists of words, placed them in a folder, and then taped daily instructions on the front for spelling activities.  Each day, the boys grab their folder, complete that day’s exercises, and by the end of the week are prepared for the graded test.  Daily activities include reading the words to me, circling any unfamiliar words, writing the words, writing sentences with the words, using a dictionary to write definitions of words I preselect for vocabulary, and then taking a practice test.  So far, this has been a no-nonsense, no cost path to greater spelling!  Yay for free!!

Language Arts – Reading      I use LOTS of different materials to encourage reading success.  One area of concentration this year is comprehension.  Using an old Scott, Foresman reader, “Wheels and Rockets”, the boys are required to read certain stories and then answer the comprehension questions in complete sentences.  We are working on changing a question into a complete statement and then answering the question.  For example:  “Why did the chicken cross the road?”  Answer:  “The chicken crossed the road because. it needed to get to the other side.”  Rather than simply write “to get to the other side”, the boys are equating their answers to complete thoughts and proper speech.  I also frequently require them to record the page number of where they found the answer by each question.  This helps force them to look back at the story for correct information.  Sometimes they do well, other times they confuse parts of the story, but we always talk through the answers and why something else might have been a better choice.

We do lots of silent reading as well.  They are required to read silently for a certain amount of time.  Sometimes I assign the material to read.  Sometimes they get to choose. Sometimes they choose at the library.  Sometimes I let them choose from a preselected group of books I put together before the school year started.  I try to have a variety of reading levels, books and magazines for them…anything to keep their interest!

Language Arts – Handwriting    I know, I know! This is a “lost Art” for many now a days.  Call me “old school” if you want, but I still believe there is value in legible handwriting!  Chances are that neither of my boys will be doctors, so I just assume that their boss will want to be able to read what they are writing, despite the Keyboard Age.  To challenge them more, we also work on cursive writing!  Doing cursive has actually made writing more exciting for them.  They take greater pride in their assignments when forming the nicely slanted letters.  This year, I’m not using any particular curriculum…..just notebook paper, starting with the ABC’s and moving towards mastery in connecting letters and words.

Science – “Exploring Creation with Zoology 2:  Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day” by Jeannie K. Fulbright   After years of using her curriculum, I cannot imagine going to anything different!  Thankfully, she has written even High School level science curriculum that we can look forward to.  So far, we’ve completed Astronomy, Anatomy, and Zoology 1: Flying Creatures.  She also sells spiral bound notebooks that accompany the study and I highly recommend them.  They are interesting, creative, and provide the perfect place to record the course’s observations and for use in note taking.

Math – Teaching Textbooks   This is a computerized math program that we started last year.  It is a little behind the advanced curriculum we were using previously, however, it’s animated and fun for the boys to learn.  It teaches, reinforces, quizzes, and challenges.  It. even. GRADES!  (Woo hoooooo!  Oh how I loathe grading assignments, lol!)  Anyway, I told the boys they could work at their pace (at least completing one grade level per year), but also can work ahead in order to stay challenged.  We actually skipped a grade level for the youngest because the placement test he took showed he had already mastered 3rd grade concepts before this 3rd grade year had started.  They love it!  I love it!  It’s a “win-win” math program that will take them well through any high school math requirements!

Music – This year we will be participating in a co-op music class. It will be taught by a very dear friend whom we have known for many years.  (Hiiiiiiiiii Kariiiiiiiiii!)  I’m so excited and know that outside the public school setting, she will be free to encourage the boys to use their talents for the Lord!  This is going to be GREAT 🙂

Study Skills – One of the things I have learned in homeschooling is that kids do not naturally know how to study!  Discovering this has changed alot in our daily plan.  Now, we learn about strategies for memorizing information.  We engage in conversation to spark the sharing of ideas and higher level thinking.  They use “Brain Pop”, an online program for learning new things and practicing test taking as well as multiple choice answering, etc.   We do crosswords, map studies, dictionary work, and even play thought provoking games like chess and scrabble.  I just usually try to have some type of study skill building activity each week to encourage them toward self-controlled, well-prepared, study habits.

Physical Education – Although somewhat lacking in our plan right now, I know we will be active.  We do sports like soccer and basketball.  We also do Wii fit and other indoor activities.  Probably not what we SHOULD be doing, but I will continue to look for opportunities for physical activity and act upon them.  Now that we are also working on the farm, they should get lots of exercise! (and me 🙂

Other Co-op classes/activities – We will be meeting weekly with a dear group of friends who all homeschool.  At last count, there were at least 40 kids participating, probably more.  This will allow us the opportunity for more socialization as well as participating in group type classes.  Co-op subjects we will be participating in are:  Astronomy, Music, Citizenship, and US States.

We are also joining the local 4-H club this year.  Archery will be our main project but we look forward to learning more about raising animals as well as participating in other projects and community service events.

Hmmmmm…..have I covered it all?  It sounds like alot.  Ok, actually it is, but thus is the challenge in homeschooling:  attempting to expose our kids to the best education in order for them to be well-rounded, responsible individuals.  I also believe homeschooling affords the greater opportunity to share Jesus with them in every area of life as well.  If they can see Jesus in a math problem, then they are more likely to include Him in their thoughts and actions as they grow up.  They will have a biblical worldview, as our bible curriculum calls it, and know the need and blessing for serving others.

Each year, God seems to equip me with what we will need to make schooling successful, and for that, I am so thankful!  To God be the glory, from me and for my sons who will hopefully one day surrender their all to Him.

  Just out of bed on the first day of school and he writes this message on the board.

  Now, if I could just convince them that starting back to school doesn’t HAVE to be bad, lol!

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Dog Days of Summer

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Swallow Saved

As I recently wrote about, we have been babysitting a family of swallows.  If you’ve followed this blog lately, you already know that one was killed by ants, and two were swallowed by a snake.  Thankfully one naturally matured to fly from our make-shift nest.  The last of the five babies, however, just needed some extra care.

As the days went on, it became obvious of an injury to one of its’ wings…perhaps after it fell the long way from the nest to our front porch?  Day after day we watched the parent birds fly in with meals, and then stall in a nearby area flapping their wings and calling to the baby.  O ver and over they would repeat this process encouraging the little one to join the flightful paradise.

The baby would call back, jump up to the highest point of the crate and then jump, only to land on the ground unable to achieve the goal.  It would stretch its’ wings; first the right one….all the way out, then the left one….only from the elbow to the shoulder.  Yes, we knew it was much more this bird needed than we could provide.

Even its’ sibling bird would come back to the crate, snuggling up to the injured bird as if to provide the personal love and attention it might need to fly.

Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center welcomed the baby bird.  The owner said it had a broken wrist but would most likely heal.  She swiftly wrapped its’ wing with such precision and exactness, we knew it was in good hands. 

 

When we first arrived there, we noticed how busy the facility was.  It is spring, and as you can imagine, they were just filled with birds needing help.  One look on the worker’s faces said it all.

Secondly, we were asked to make a donation to the center.  With so many birds to take care of, and no regular funding other than from the public, I would imagine there is a constant need for financial help.  Feeding and caring for what must be hundreds, if not a thousand or so birds has got to take alot of people, food, water, and supplies.  We hope to return with a donation, and continue looking for ways to help.  If you would like to help, please consider making a donation through their website here

We were also invited to walk around the facility.  There we found some amazing winged creatures that seemed very grateful for the care they were getting.

We think of our feathered friend often, wondering if he’s feeling ok and how his wing is healing.  It’s been a great experience for the boys.  This is what makes homeschooling fun!

 

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Swallows Swallowed

I love how God uses real life lessons to support our homeschooling endeavors!  Countless times, He brings people or situations into our lives just during or after we have studied them.  What an opportunity to take our head knowledge and put it to practical use!

One such opportunity recently fell (literally) onto our own front porch …

Walking out the door one day, I looked down and noticed a baby bird had fallen out of the nest on our front porch.  We have been watching these birds since before their eggs were hatched. 

Day after day, the parents carefully built the nest, laid the eggs, and then patiently sat waiting for their big arrivals.

The nest was well located, approximately 12(‘sh) feet above our front door securely attached to the brick wall.  Even with our highest ladder, we could not reach the nest, and felt therefore that no other predator could either.

On this day, however, we found the newly born bird laying on the porch and covered in ants.  It was a sad day.  We have spent the last several months studying birds, their behavior and reproduction and now with the opportunity to see it all up close, this poor little baby lay as a feast to the relentless jaws of Texas ants.

Cleaning and spraying for ants (again), we remained hopeful that the rest of the birds would stay put in their snug abode.

The next day, however, we noticed yet another baby bird fledged too early and was sitting on the porch. 

Then, yet again, a third bird found its way there too.

Quickly, we rescued them from the ants, placing inside a small dog carrier, and determined to do what we could to save their lives.

For the next couple of days we noticed their frailty.  We contacted both the local Audobon Center and a Wildlife Rescue facility for information.  We fed them with a dropper and kept them indoors at night, but outdoors in full view by their parents during the day.

The third day, we noticed a marked improvement in their health and rejoiced over how much attention their parents were giving inside the opened crate.

Remaining in the nest were two more babies, so the parents flew back and forth between the crate, now on a chair on the porch, and the nest high above the door.

As the boys and I continued to monitor the babies in both places, I opened the door, noted the babies in the crate, then peered up only to be shocked and surprised and definately very, very frightened!  This was the sight I saw…

Let me just point out here that I. DON’T. DO. SNAKES!  If a snake wants this house, it is more than welcome to HAVE IT!  I will gladly take my purse, laptop, kids, and keys and leave the perimeter for as long as a snake wants to inhabit the premises!  So, as you can imagine, I was pretty much FREAKED out at this point!  

My boys, on the other hand, thought it was the coolest thing in the world.

We called the city who transferred the call to the county, who promptly responded by sending a police man to save the day.  Praise the Lord for policemen and women who protect our country from drugs, murderers, evil-doers, and SNAKES!

He knocked down the nest, snake and all, and promptly cut it into several pieces.

We could see the bulge of each of the two remaining baby birds inside the snake’s stomach.  Poor babies 😦

(…and of course, my boys had to squeeze the birds out of the snake…yuck!)

By the way……I noticed how disgusting the smell of the snake was within just a few minutes of dying.  Gurrose!

Once things calmed down and the snake was gone, we began to turn our attention once again to the two birds in the crate.  Those poor parents who had so faithfully cared for their children were sitting on the roof tops mourning the deaths of now three of five birds. 

Even more so, the boys and I remained determined to save these birds.

It’s been several days since the snake incident.  We were rewarded with seeing one of the baby birds fly from its nest crate.  The second bird has a problem with one of its wings so we continue to closely watch over it.  Three or four times it has made it to the top of the crate and jumped off, however that wing just won’t work correctly.  We are thinking it might have possibly been hurt in the fall from the nest.

Until it is ready for flight, we continue this up close and practical application of our new-found Ornithology wisdom.   I never knew bird watching was so rewarding and fun!

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Our Best and Worst

Homeschooling is a journey.  We have homeschooled for five years now and along the way made discoveries that pave our path.  Certain curriculum, certain schedules, certain processes….all these have brought us to the place we are now.  Constantly on the look out for ways to improve our boys’ education, I’m not afraid to make changes that would increase their learning potential and the effectiveness of our day.

One thing that stands without a doubt as a most effective, convenient, and frugal educational tool is use of the internet and technology.  Many times we are able to enhance our studies at the computer.  The wealth of information available far exceeds what one book might provide.  Our basic studies are dictated by the book’s outline,but more in-depth and relative information is gained through use of the internet.

That said, our worst enemy is also technology.  As soon as they rise in the morning, the first place our boys want to gravitate to is the computer, or the Wii, or the DS, or even the Kindle.  To start school each morning, I often have to pry them off of the laptop.  Sometimes, they try to wake up early and sneak to be the first to get it.  I’ve even resorted to asking Dad to hide his laptop so that they won’t know where it is!  (and I’ve hidden the Wii controllers too!)

This goes on for a while but then we seem to go back to the lackadaisical ways of leaving it all out and accessible again. 

It’s a constant battle to patrol and protect.  Safety and protection remains a top priority when it comes to children using the computer so we have to stay diligent in overseeing the sites they visit and the things they see.

Having these things available makes it hard to start our school day and also makes it less likely they will want to play with their toys or outside. 

Having these things available, however, brings our lessons to life, adds excitement and activities, and provides resources to supplement and challenge both of them.  

“It’s as easy as restricted use”, you say? 

“Give them so many minutes of use a day”, you say?

I wish it were that easy!  At their age, and because we are always here around the technology, they seem to be able to boot it up and get a game going faster than I can notice!  Sometimes, while I am taking a moment to put in a load of laundry or take a shower, they summon the Wii forces before I can get back into the room.  Once the controllers are  in their hand, it can get U.G.L.Y. just to get them off and refocused!  If only I could rig something that would electrically zap their hand if they touch it when they shouldn’t! 😉

We will likely never take drastic steps to remove it all, but acknowledge a growing need to achieve a balance with the technological resources in our household.  More time outside and more time building Legos rather than them even wanting to be playing video games.  Is there such a thing in America today?!

Technology…it’s our best friend and our worst enemy.

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Losing Everything to Gain Everything

“Pretend your family has to leave your home quickly.  You may take only one suitcase.  What would you pack?”

This was the question on an assignment my boys had to complete and that I am just now grading.  I chuckled when I read their answers:

  1. Cloths (I believe this should be “clothes” 😉
  2. Toby (the family dog)
  3. Toby’s food
  4. Action figure
  5. bible
  6. toys
  7. pants
  8. underwear (yes, I agree….these are VERY important!)
  9. shirts
  10. books
  11. DS
  12. yogurt covered raisins
  13. charger for DS

LOL!  My how priorities remain different for each of us!  What was on your list? 

I was thinking about pictures, important documents, my purse, etc.  yet to young boys, action figures and video games remain as one of the most important things they own.

Recent tornadic events have swept away what alot of people would consider important.  The residents of Diamond Creek in Forney, Texas  are still picking through what is left of their material possessions.  What may have seemed so important at the beginning of the year is probably very different for most right now. 

Realizing that no one died or was seriously injured surely has caused our community to come back to the importance of life.  Having our families, friends, and neighbors well and healthy brings about a new appreciation for the protection, love, and intervention of God.

Now that the clean up is mostly done and the rebuild is going on, what will we do with this memory?  Will we do what we can to go back to life as it was before the tornado?  Will we build our houses, both physically and spiritually, in such a way that we duplicate what was the “norm”?  Just how long will it take for us to forget the blessings of the past weeks, and start to replace all the “stuff” God allowed to vanish?

I’m not just talking about houses, cars, clothes, and video games.  The “stuff” I’m referring to is our need to gather all those things  — the American dream, the desire toward pridefulness and power and position, and our insistence to keep up with “The Joneses”. 

Stuff like the comfortableness in which we live, or perhaps the wastefulness of our time…the hoarding of treasures and memories.  The stuff we take for granted.  Stuff that pales in comparison to life and relationships.  Stuff comes in lots of forms:  money, position, technology, business, paper, plastic, convenience, procrastination, beautiful colors, memoriable events, books, and ideals.  It can permeate our lives before we even stop to realize that most of it is just “stuff”.

A pastor of the local church we have recently visited took time to speak of such stuff and the effects it can have on our lives.  His thought provoking question was “Is it eternal?” 

The absolute answer to most of our “stuff” is “No, it’s not.”

We often, even unknowingly, use our stuff to set an image to others of what our life is like.  These images are usually false and not at all a real representation.

Years ago, I realized that good friends in my life actually thought I was much more than I am.  They were surprised to hear that my house is not always clean, my children do not always behave, and I, even I, made mistakes.  {gasp!}  I guess because of my quest for perfection at work, they believed my personal life was also that way. 

(And now I just feel the need to break here and laugh out loud!!!  Bwa hahahahaha!)

What my friends had no clue about was that I frequently mess up.  I have baggage.  My house is pretty much always a wreck  (at least until I know someone is coming over, lol).  Try as I may, I cannot clean enough around here.  Try as I might, stuff creeps into my time and thoughts and many times prevents me from being what I know I should be.

Right now in my living room there are mounds of toys, video games,  and a tent set up and encompassing the small amount of space still visible on the floor.  There’s dust on the ceiling fan and furniture, something stuck on the floor under the rocking chair, and toe prints from where the boys and grandchild have endlessly walked on the wooden floor.  I have two sinks full of dirty dishes, things scattered across the kitchen counter, and a whole stack of papers to grade on the table.  Outside, within my current view, is a bag of lawn clippings that need to be thrown out.  There is also bits of fuzz scattered all over the back lawn from where the puppy decided to shred our grill cover…..again. 

This is everyday life around here.  If you called and said you were on the way to our house, I would most assuredly rush to put away all this stuff! 

Still, even though rushing to clean up the house for you, I would hope that our lives represent a real-ness from the Lord.  Even if you came unannounced, I would invite you in, longing to make you feel welcome and be attentive to the purpose for your visit.  I would hope that even surrounded in my stuff, you would enjoy being here and look past my failures as a Domestic Engineer.

I wasn’t always this way.  I used to put only my best foot forward trying to impress and amaze.  During that time, only the best of my stuff was on display.  Nice dishes, perfectly folded towels, trophies, perfectly dressed children pre-scolded about their behavior lined up at the door to greet all who enter… these were part of the stuff I wanted people to see.

What hides behind a perfectly displayed life?  How many times do we greet others masking the events of our personal life with a smile and a nod?  Do we really expect our stuff to effectively shield true lives? 

Our life is messy.  I am definately not perfect.  We have too much non-eternal stuff around here, and what I have figured out is that I don’t have time to lead a non-eternal, stuff-filled life anymore.

Learning to look past stuff, taking moments to address stuff, and talking about how less important alot of stuff is in our lives has led us to alot of decisions.  We have purposefully tried to let go of stuff and look toward only what God would set before us.  These past few years have led us to leave alot behind.  Whether purposefully removed by us or by God, we have found that our lives are becoming more of what they should be. 

This is still transforming even now as we seek our next residence and ministry, but all I can say is “Wow, God really is better than our stuff!”  His stuff is lasting.  His provision is real.  He really does know what it is we should be doing and how we should be doing it.  We just have to lose our stuff to gain His.

There’s still alot of unanswered questions about our immediate future but I honestly believe that wherever He takes us, it will be the right place.  His allowing us to lose stuff in our lives is leading us to a better place.  Although a bit painful at times, the journey is proving more eye-opening every day. 

Sometimes we have to lose everything as we know it, or aspire it to be in order to gain just what He wants, and it is then that the eternal stuff starts to matter a great deal more.

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