Monthly Archives: February 2012

What’s New For Next Year

I’ve been super busy planning for next year these last few weeks. We’re keeping a lot of our favorites from this year (such as Math-U-See, Explode the Code, A Reason for Handwriting, Growing with Grammar, Pathway Readers, Christian Liberty Press Nature Readers, and Five in a Row) but we’re also going to be trying out a few new things as well. Here’s what’s new for next year.

We’re adding art because the kids have shown a real interest in doing more art work. This is a new curriculum written by How Great Thou Art. There are around sixty Bible stories in it with discussion questions and an art lesson for each one. I love that it’s so much more than just art!

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In addition to the book, you get all of the pages for the art lessons that you can copy as needed to use with however many students you have.
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I’m starting Caroline on a math curriculum next year. I wanted something gentle, fun and effective and I came across this. It’s a Charlotte Mason style curriculum, so it’s written in story-form (which is extremely unique for a math curriculum). It’s the story of a set of twins who go visit their grandparent’s farm for the summer and all of their adventures.
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All the extras you need are included in the back of the book and need only to be laminated for durability.
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How cute is this?!
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We’ll also be adding a Worldview curriculum for the three of us to do together. This is a new series written by Apologia (well-known for their excellent science curriculum). There are four books in the entire series and we’ll be covering one per year. We’ll also be keeping a notebook together where we’ll jot down memory verses, key terms, and answers to discussion questions. I think the kids will really grow in their understanding of the Bible and the Christian faith. I’m super excited!
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And last, I’ve had a lot of people ask me what I am doing for literature next year. Elliot and I will be continuing our beloved Five in A Row. I am going to be using titles from both volume three and four with him because I think he will be ready to move on to a more challenging literature program in third grade (I’m looking at a Total Language Plus or Progeny Press). We’ll be doing a total of eighteen FIAR books next year! For Caroline, I’ve come up with something on my own. We’re doing a family theme throughout the whole year and we’ll be reading a variety of books written about different family relationships. We’ll cover mother, father, siblings, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I’ll also be using those books as a starting point for unit studies on a variety of topics like seasons, weather, money, etc.

Here are some of the books her and I will be reading together next year. She will also have eighteen total books for the year.

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The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Knowledge

Over the last few days I’ve had some extra time and have been able to peruse through a few new homeschooling blogs that I’ve found and I keep coming across blog posts conveying the same exact idea. It’s as if God specifically picked them out for me and sent them my way. The topic I keep seeing discussed over and over is that Christ should be at the center of your homeschool. Of course, I nod to myself and agree wholeheartedly. After all, that’s the main reason we chose to homeschool. The one thing I wanted emphasized in my children’s lives would be purposely left out in the public school. Though it can be done and I know people who do it well, the task of building upon the “neutral” (There is really no such thing. If you remove God from the picture, you are against Him.) foundation of school and weeding out all of the teachings that directly contradict our beliefs seemed more daunting than homeschooling itself.

So, here we are a year and a half later. Am I succeeding at what we set out to do or am I letting the pressure to succeed academically steal the precious opportunities to lead my children to Jesus? The other night Elliot was reading in his bed for nearly an hour, as he typically does these days. I peeked into his room and my heart soared. I said to myself, “YES! We are succeeding! He loves reading!” A few moments later my heart dropped and I immediately realized my error. The reading is wonderful, of course, but am I pursuing teaching him God’s word as strongly as I am chasing after these academic achievements? I cannot honestly say that I do each day. Do I often rush through our morning Bible time because we need to get our school work done? Do I allow the kids to pray quick thoughtless prayers as we begin our day and not challenge them to speak to God from their hearts because we’ve got to finish a book for school? Do I criticize and complain at them instead of using conflict as an opportunity to teach them by example with God’s word? Guilty. I’m so thankful that God is showing me these things now during the early years. If I can’t keep my priorities straight while we’re doing first grade, how am I going to do it down the road when pressure to “keep up” is much higher. These are things I personally plan to work on, because in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter if my kids are reading three grade levels ahead. It will be of no value to them that they can name all the presidents in order or name the capitals of all fifty states. Being book-smart may benefit them to a degree until the end of this life, but it will have no eternal value.

In closing, I want to use my husband as a great example. He has an amazing ability to impart truth to our kids. I’m convinced he’d do a much better job at this if he were the one staying at home with the kids! He came home last night after a long day at work and was still able to begin a meaningful discussion with the kids at the dinner table. He talked with the kids about how they have the choice to either be a tool that God uses for His glory or to be an example of what God is not pleased with. He reminded them to ask themselves in certain situations if they were being a David or a Goliath. I found this simple question to be quite brilliant and will now be asking my kids on a daily basis during conflict if they are being a David or a Goliath. I pray that God can sharpen me in the way He has sharpened my husband so that together we can be effective teachers to these kids God has given us.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them upon your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. -Deuteronomy 6:5-9

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Mini Update

I’ve been taking a break from the detailed updates, as they are very time consuming, but I thought I’d give a brief update on how things are going in our little homeschool!
The last few weeks have been wonderful (probably partly due to being able to focus and really enjoy what we’re learning and not thinking about updating the blog) and I have not had nearly as many of those doubtful days as I frequently did at the beginning of this school year when I would worry about a variety of things and second-guess our decision. Considering it’s February, which many people claim is “the most difficult month for homeschooling”, I’m feeling extra encouraged to be in such a good place. I’ve been planning and buying curriculum for next year and I am so excited about what we’ll be doing!

A couple weeks ago we also visited a homeschool co-op that offers enrichment classes and we are really excited about the possibility of joining next year. The kids are so thrilled with the idea of having classes to go to. I love that because it’s just a once a week thing and is not for the core subjects, it doesn’t interfere at all with what I have planned in terms of curriculum (that’s the control freak in me talking).

Caroline just started the Explode the Code Primers. She will be finishing them by the end of the year so that we can start with book one next year. We love this program and I truly think that it’s one of the reasons (along with Pathway Readers) that Elliot has become such a strong reader.
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Elliot has become SUCH a reader. He often disappears into his room to read in the afternoons, and he reads each night in his bed before it’s time to turn out the lights. He has several favorite series that he can’t get enough of. We joined the Six Flags “Read to Succeed” challenge late, and he ended up reading the full six required hours in just about one week.
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In other news, we’re going to Disney World in 17 days! We just told the kids this past weekend and they’re thrilled. We love that homeschooling gives us the freedom to go on vacation on the week BEFORE the rest of the state of Texas is taking their spring break!

We had fun doing a scavenger hunt that ended revealing their big surprise.
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Three Years

A little over a year before we began our homeschooling journey, we began another journey that has also had a huge impact on our family. Three years ago we set out to live a healthier life by eating foods that nourish, protect, and heal our bodies.

At that time, I was at an all time health low. I had recently had my second baby and it was clear that I was not well. I was battling debilitating dizziness, fatigue, and anxiety. I was living on a low-calorie/ low-fat diet to reach and maintain my pre-pregnancy weight, not realizing that what I was feeding my body was completely void of any real nutrients (after pregnancy had depleted my body of what little nutrients it did have). Now it makes sense to me why I felt like I was falling apart physically and mentally!

I visited a wide range of medical doctors, but none of them asked about my lifestyle or addressed nutrition at all. Instead their solutions included things like “try taking a birth control pill”. The “health care” I received was a joke and it was then that I realized I was looking in the wrong place. I finally went to go see a chiropractor as my final attempt to seek advice on health and wellness and I was told something so simple, yet something I had not heard before. He told me that I should be able to restore and heal my body with nutrition. I walked out of his office with hope that maybe it really was that simple. Maybe food could have a dramatic effect on health. But after looking for more information, I realized there was so much conflicting information out there on what is “healthy” that it was often overwhelming and confusing. I continued researching and am still learning more every day, but I feel like I have made some pretty big discoveries, several of which contradict almost everything I (and pretty much all of my generation) was taught about health growing up. Here are what I consider to be my top ten:

Fat is NOT the Enemy.
There is good fat and there is bad fat, but most people lump them all together and believe they should avoid them all as much as possible. This is a terrible misconception because fat is essential for proper functioning of almost all the organ systems in our bodies, it helps with the absorbtion of vitamins, and it can protect against things like cancer and heart disease. We are no longer afraid of fat in our home, in fact, we regularly consume things like full-fat raw milk, butter, eggs, nuts and nut butters just the way that God has given them to us…with the fat and nutrients intact!

Sugar IS the Enemy
Overconsumption of sugar impairs the immune system and can cause chronic disease. That pretty much sums it up.

Artificial Sweeteners are NOT a Good Substitute
Sweeteners like Splenda and Aspartame are not acceptable substitutes for sugar. They break down in the body and act as neurotoxins and should be avoided at all costs. Natural sweeteners like stevia and xylitol are much better choices.

A Variety of Fruits and Vegetables are Essential
This may seem like a no-brainer, but there was a time when I thought I was fine if I had the occasional apple. Since no one food provides everything you need, it’s important to be getting a good variety on a daily basis. I used to buy very little fresh produce but now I’d say it makes up most of what I buy at the store, and there is always a huge variety of things in my cart.

Fruits AND Vegetables Make the Best Smoothies
The green smoothie was my first big attempt to better health and it has stood the test of time. We still consume them regularly and I’ve enjoyed experimenting with what I put in them. We’ve been known to use apples, oranges, peaches, kiwi, bananas, berries, a variety of leafy greens and we’ve also added things such as celery, cucumber, avacados, and carrots. I finally got a Blend-Tec blender not long ago, which has improved my smoothie-making even more!

Organics are Worth the Cost
Some would argue this is subjective, but it’s the conclusion I’ve come to. I believe that residue from pesticides are present in non-organic food, especially produce, and I believe that residue could be detrimental to our health and so if I have the option, I almost always choose organic.

Raw Milk is Superior to Store-Bought Milk
This would probably be my most controversial point, however I think there is beginning to be a huge movement towards raw milk as people learn more about its benefits. Raw milk contains a host of essential vitamins, minerals and enzymes. On the other hand, most store-bought milk has been ultra-pasturized to the point that all the nutrients have been eliminated (I’ve even heard it referred to as “dead milk”). They have to add synthetic vitamins back into it to replace what was lost, and those vitamins don’t even compare to what naturally occurs in milk. The process of homogenization also poses health risks of its own.

Pastured Meat and Eggs are Superior to the Store-Bought Variety
Meat and eggs from pastured animals provide more essential nutrients than those you get at the store that are from animals fed a diet of cheap corn and grain. Enough said.

Homemade Broth is Superior to Store-Bought Canned Broth
For the longest time I couldn’t understand why people would go to the trouble of making broth when you could just buy it at the store. Now I get it. Homemade broth is an extremely nutrient-dense food and the taste is superior as well! I make a big batch bi-weekly and use it in a variety of recipes.

Freshly-Milled Flour is Superior to Store-Bought Flour (Are we noticing a trend here?)
As soon as a grain of wheat is milled, the process of oxidation begins which leads to a loss of nutrients. The sooner you can consume it after it is milled, the better. It tastes better too!

God is good. He deserves all the glory for taking me through this amazing journey, revealing these things to me, and restoring me to great health. I definitely would not have been able to take on the task of homeschooling if I was not well, but it was all part of his plan in getting us where we are today. The kids have also benefited from our changes. They are in incredible health and their little immune systems astound me! And they are also thrilled to be able to stay at home and learn with their healthy and happy Mommy. We are blessed.

(I highly recommend Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challanges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon and www.Westonaprice.org to learn more about some of the things I’ve listed here.)

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