Week 2

Memory Verse: He is the rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God, who does no wrong, upright and just is He. – Deuteronomy 32:4

Poetry: The Days of the Months - Anonymous

Hymn: Blessed Assurance

History: Ancient Egypt

Science: Introduction to Astronomy

Five in a Row: A Pair of Red Clogs by Masako Matsuno (learning about Japan and weather)

Read Aloud: Boy of the Pyramids by Ruth Fosdick Jones

Artist: Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

A few more photos from our first week:

Astronomy Notebooks

I’m organizing everything we memorize in a new way this year. Each of the kids have a memory work notebook so we can keep track of it all.

I’ve divided the notebooks into categories for Bible verses, poetry, quotes, and “other” for anything else that may not exactly fit into one of these categories.

At any given time we’ll be working on one Bible verse and one other selection, most often a piece of poetry. Right now we’re working on memorizing The Days of the Months poem. “Thirty days has September…”

First Picture Study for Renoir

This year Elliot is keeping a reading log and response journal. We’ve been keeping track of every book he’s read since January 2012 (he’s very proud of his current 140 books…) but never in a very organized way.

I’ve included a list of 16 questions to respond to about the book he’s currently reading. Each week he can pick whatever question he’d like to answer

In the back of the journal I’ve included information on the different literature genres, elements of a story, and literary devices, as we’ll be discussing those things with regards to what he’s reading and it may also help him answer some of the questions.

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Week 1 of 2013-2014

We’re back at it after a fun and relaxing summer! Here’s what we’ve got going on, as well as photos of our first day.

Memory Verse: He is the rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God, who does no wrong, upright and just is He. – Deuteronomy 32:4

Poetry: The Days of the Months- Anonymous

Hymn: Blessed Assurance

History: Creation and Early Man

Science: Introduction to Astronomy

Five in a Row: A Pair of Red Clogs by Masako Matsuno (learning about Japan and weather)

Read Aloud: Aesop’s Fables (We’re starting a book on week 2 that goes along with what we’ll be learning in history, so we’re just reading fables until then.)

Artist: Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

No first day jitters for us!

Math

This is a picture she drew of a seed she’s spouting as a part of her math lesson this week.

Map and Flag of Japan for her first day of Five in a Row.

He’s telling me his name sign language, which we’ll be practicing at the lunch table this year

The Letter ‘C’ is a piece of cake.

‘E’ is somewhat trickier.

“Mabes”, as we affectionately call her, was overseeing our entire day, ensuring a quality education was being received by all.

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Our Summer

Our eight weeks of summer vacation have been eventful and exciting. We’ve enjoyed swimming, days at the water park (this was our first year getting season passes), lots of reading for the library summer reading program, summer movies at the theater, playdates with friends, Vacation Bible School, and many other family adventures. We’re fully satisfied and ready to get back to our schoolwork next week!

Success!

Hawaiian Falls

Summer Reading

Science Museum

Blueberry Picking

Go Rangers!

Pottery Painting Date with Daddy

Swimming

Me and My Love

Go-Karts

Vacation Bible School

Wrapping up the Summer in Style

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Homeschooling Myths: Busted!

When we started homeschooling, it was not because I had any proof that I could provide a superior education for my kids. I was taking a leap of faith that I could do it, with God’s help. Over time, I’ve collected up a good amount of “arguments” for homeschooling, and not just the “theories” but also factual information that has only fueled my passion for homeschooling even more.
When I was at the Teach Them Diligently Convention in May, one of my favorite sessions that I heard was one about “debunking” all of those common homeschooling misconceptions. It was really fascinating to me to hear so many statistics that flat out disprove what a lot of people assume about homeschooling. For instance, I’ve heard plenty of people say they put their kids in school so that they’ll get the best education. That would be based on a bigger overarching misconception that a better education can only come from “qualified” educators. Furthermore, I’ve had plenty of people tell me they’d love to homeschool their kids but they can’t, either because they have no background in education or no college education at all. So is any of this based on fact? No, it’s really not, in fact when you look at the data, it demonstrates something completely contradictory.

I recently came across this article, titled America’s Best Educated Kids Don’t Go to School which reminded me of what I learned at the convention. When homeschooled and public schooled students’ standardized tests scores were compared in 2007-2008, it revealed that homeschoolers were scoring significantly higher than public schoolers across the board. Homeschoolers were in the 89th percentile in reading, 86th percentile in science, and 84th percentile in language, math and social studies, compared to public schoolers who were scoring around the 50th percentile in all areas. What’s even more interesting, in my opinion, is that homeschooled students whose parents both did not attend college still scored much higher, around the 83rd percentile, compared to public schooled students. So if you think you are not “qualified” to teach your children successfully, think again! You don’t have to know everything your child will ever need to know, you simply have to be able to show them how to retrieve information for themselves. Homeschooling tends to place a lot of emphasis on independent learning, and I think that contributes to its success.

One thing I have focused intensely on in the first few years is reading because of the goal I have for my kids to be able to learn whatever it is they need and want to learn. I’ve worked hard not only at developing the skill of reading, but also the enjoyment. My kids have come to associate reading and learning new things with immense joy and satisfaction. It’s a lot of work in these early years, but I can already see it paying off. When I walk into Elliot’s room during his free time and he’s sprawled out on the bed with a variety of books around him because there are so many different things he’s gotten drawn into, I can see the drive to learn more and more developing in him.

I’m not posting this to glorify our decision. I know it’s not for everyone. I just think it’s important that people know the facts regarding the educational options that are out there. It’s simply a false statement that a parent cannot educate their child as well as a teacher could. A loving parent who cares enough to diligently invest the time and effort is completely capable of providing their child with a great education!

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A Few of my Favorite Things

If you’ve ever been to a homeschool convention, book fair, or even a homeschool book store, you’re probably very aware of the vast amount of products out there geared towards families who educate their children at home. Even though I often feel like I’m nothing more than the target market for these companies who just want my money, I still believe there are A LOT of great products out there that are worth the investment. Sometimes I get overwhelmed just because there are so many things that look great, yet I don’t have the time or money to try everything available. I’m a huge fan of books and audio products as a means of entertainment instead of television, so I’m definitely always on the lookout for stuff like that. Over the past year or so I’ve discovered quite a few book series and children’s products that have turned out to be been huge hits for us, so I thought I’d share some of those.

Focus on the Family Radio Theatre Dramas
We’ve been listening to Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey since Elliot was about three and Caroline was…well, basically since she emerged from the womb. We absolutely love it and currently own probably about 100 CDs. So when I learned that Focus on the Family also did theatre-style audio stories, I was really excited about trying them. Unlike a regular audio-book, these are like listening to movies. They have all been very good, but our absolute favorite has been Anne of Green Gables. Caroline is now in a hurry to read the Anne series with me because she has been so enthralled with the radio theatre version.

In Grandma’s Attic Series
I scour lots of book lists online looking for quality books to read with the kids, and I’m especially partial to older books. There’s just something about them I love. They seem more “wholesome” and better written than a lot of the more modern books for children. I saw this series listed several places, described as an “old favorite”. Up until pretty recently they were hard to find, but in 2011 new editions were published making them easily available once again, so we took a chance on the entire series. I was pleasantly surprised by the incorporation of faith, prayer, and family values throughout the books. These books are excellent! Caroline and I have read through all four of them and look forward to reading them over again sometime.

Maestro Classics
I came across the Swan Lake Maestro Classic at the library when we were studying Tchaikovsky. By the end of the first time we played it, the kids were singing along and wanted to play it over and over again. Who doesn’t love a good story accompanied by classical music? I’m sure we’ll be collecting a lot more of these.

Greathall Productions Audio Stories
“Intelligent Entertainment for the Thinking Family” is the tagline for this product and I’d say that is a good description. These are classic stories told by Jim Weiss, who is really able to draw you in and hold your attention from the very beginning. In addition to the classics, there are also a lot of selections that would be great supplements to a variety of history studies on things such as ancient Egypt, Greek myths, the Renaissance, American explorers and pioneers, etc. They are available as CDs or MP3′s, so they couldn’t be easier to acquire and listen to.

Puffin Classics
Puffin has been publishing classics for a long time, but not long ago I discovered their most recent editions of them and I’m completely addicted to collecting them. I love building up our home library and it’s been my goal to find a nice set of classics since I’d like to read as many as I can to the kids. As far as I know, most all of these are complete and unabridged (all of mine say so on the back) so they are not watered down versions. The covers are charming and colorful, making them very attractive to children. The text is large enough to read pretty easily, compared to other versions of classic books I’ve looked at. I love everything about these! So far Elliot has read Five Children and It, and he also read Alice’s Adventure’s In Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass to Caroline. I read The Wind in the Willows to both of them this summer, and though is was a more challenging read, we enjoyed it. I can’t wait to read more of these.

Lamplighter Ministries
This is my favorite find of the year! Lamplighter’s tagline is “Building Character…One Story at a Time.” Mark Hamby, the founder, has been searching out old books since around 1994 and republishing them so that today’s families can enjoy them. They would otherwise be pretty hard to come by. He edits them just enough to make them understandable now (but in my opinion, they still have that neat old antique feel…they are definitely not modernized). All of the stories have an underlying christian theme, with a lesson that builds character. The themes include things such as obedience, self-control, salvation, peer pressure, perseverance, diligence, choices and their consequences, etc. They also have mad many of their most popular stories into audio dramas. We’ve found the quality of the audio dramas to be excellent, just as good, if not better, than Focus on the Family Radio Theatre. We have quite a few of the audio dramas and I’m working on collecting up some of the books as well.

Seeds Family Worship
Okay, so I didn’t just discover these. We’ve been listening to Seeds for years and our memory verses last year were based mostly on songs from the CDs, but no list of my favorite things would be complete without Seeds. I can’t say enough about the value of these CDs. My kids know SO MUCH scripture because of these catchy songs (that are enjoyable for adults as well…these are not your average Bible songs). When I was at the Teach Them Diligently convention, I stood in line at the Seeds booth just to talk to someone to confirm they’d be making more. I was glad to hear they are working on it as we speak! As long as they keep making these, we will keep buying them. Period.

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The End of Our School Year- Week 35 and 36

We’ve been super busy these last few weeks, but I told myself I was going finish what I started with my weekly (or sometimes semi-weekly) blogs and manage to make my last update of the year. We’ve done a lot of fun things, including a trip to Nashville to attend the Teach Them Diligently homeschool convention.

Hymn: Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee

Artist: Leonardo Da Vinci

Composer: George Gershwin

Five in a Row: Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran (studying the desert)

Pre-K Literature: The Bravest of Them All by Marsha Arnold (learning about tornados)

Read Aloud: Tornadoby Betsy Byars

A Few Photos From the Last few Weeks:

Josh and Elliot spent the night at the Ranger’s Ballpark for the fan sleepover. They slept on the outfield. These guys are true fans.

We went to go see The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley at the Dallas Children’s Theater. It was super cute. We can’t wait to go back for another show sometime soon.

We went with a group from our co-op. What a great group of kids!

The Teach Them Diligently convention was held at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville. It’s such an amazing place! I didn’t see even close to all of it because I spent most of the time hearing speakers, but I was really blessed by all that I experienced there among so many others who desire to give their kids a great education and to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

The best part of the convention was spending time with my sister-in-law, Annie, who came all the way from Africa where she and her husband are missionaries. I hadn’t seen her at all in two years, but she has always been an encouragement and support to me when it comes to parenthood and homeschooling.

These two LOVED the Gaylord and have been talking about how much they miss it ever since we left. It was such a fun experience to be in such a cool place, surrounded by a ton of other families just like us!

This week we’re finishing up Roxaboxen, our 50th and last Five in a Row book. Wow, what an awesome journey it has been to learn new things with these wonderful stories! I’ll be starting back at the beginning again next year with Caroline for her Kindergarten year.

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Week 33 and 34

Memory Verse: For all men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.-  1 Peter 1:24-25

Hymn: Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee

Artist: Leonardo Da Vinci

Composer: George Gershwin

Five in a Row: The Raft by Jim LaMarche

Pre-K Literature: Give her the River by Michael Brown

Read Aloud: Paddington at Large by Michael Bond

A Few Photos From Last Week:

We took the rest of last week off after we returned from our trip and were able to enjoy the beautiful weather we’ve been having. We went with some of our friends to go pick strawberries and we had a great time. We couldn’t stop picking all those beautiful berries and came home with quite a basketful!

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Austin and San Antonio Trip

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Two Reviews for the Price of One

In the past week, I’ve zipped through two books about one of my favorite topics, children’s books!  I’ve learned a lot and have been re-inspired to provide for my kids an exciting “reading life”.  Here’s a summary of each one, along with what I personally gathered from them.

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller

This book instantly caught my eye on goodreads. It’s written by a sixth grade teacher (who coincidentally teaches in the city we live in) who claims to be able to “awaken the inner reader” in any and every child.  While I’m pretty confident that I already have one very enthusiastic bookworm and another well on her way to becoming one, I was curious what strategies she uses to succeed in doing this. It’s definitely geared more towards school teachers, but I thought it still had some good information in there for homeschooling parents as well. Mrs. Miller is positively inspiring when it comes to her passion for reading and instilling that in children. But the sad reality, she explains, is that kids (and adults, for that matter) are reading less and less. Many of her students enter her classroom only having read two to three books the prior year. She discusses how she believes the reason for this is the way reading is being taught in school. She suggests that the common practice of the teacher choosing one book for the entire class (which disregards personal interest, reading level, and past reading experiences) and then attaching a heap of assignments to it, sucks the joy from the experience and students quickly learn to hate reading. When you combine that with the fact that reading comprehension and general success across all school subjects is directly related to how much a student reads, you can see that there is a real crisis happening.  She gives her students a requirement to read forty books during the school year. She gives them the freedom to choose what they read and supplies them with thousands of books from the shelves of her personal classroom library. Furthermore, she gives them time to read in class for at least twenty minutes every day. She also reads along with them, modeling a love for reading, and often reads books they have read so that she can engage with them in conversation about the books. One thing she does have them do is write in a reading response journal where they can record their thoughts on what they’re reading.  She writes in them as well, as replies to their thoughts and opinions. So, to sum up her main points, giving kids freedom, opportunity, good reading role-models, and cutting out the meaningless tasks attached to reading will yield fanatical readers. The majority of her students end up meeting or exceeding the reading requirement, even the ones who started out as the weakest readers and who were the least interested in reading.

I took away a lot of good information and ideas from this book. Primarily, it was very impactful just to be reminded that the way most schools are teaching reading is not successful and does not produce lifetime readers. Despite the vast amount of available curricula and materials out there for teaching book units, I am determined to resist the belief that that is the best way to inspire and teach reading. I’ve made a conscious decision to go easy on the amount of work that I will assign to go along with books, and instead let them just focus as much on reading as possible. While I still plan on using Progeny Press literature guides from time to time, the majority of the time I plan to simply provide good books and let them enjoy with no strings attached . I also really love the idea of reading the same book my child has chosen to read, just for enjoyment of a good conversation and to validate that they have made good book choices that I find interesting too.  Additionally, I’m stealing the reading response journal idea so that at the end of each week we can reflect on what has been read, both for school related books and free reading. I’ve made one with complete with a place to record each book that is read, a list of reading response prompts, and lots of pages for responding to whichever prompts sound interesting.

Now, on to what I didn’t care for as much about this book. Mrs. Miller definitely seems to be emphasizing quantity over quality and from what I gather, she asserts that any reading is excellent and profitable for children. Her students get to choose from just about anything they’d like to read (though she did say she doesn’t allow them to read adult fiction without parental permission….but that was the only mention of parental input in the entire book).  That basically assumes that anything in the kids’ and young adult’s section is morally appropriate for every child and provides literary value. I don’t believe that to be true. In addition, several of the books she listed as her student’s favorites have content I don’t approve of and that do not, in my opinion, exemplify attitudes that I would really want my children becoming desensitized to and mimicking. I’ve had a lot of conversations with my kids regarding the books we choose and have equated it with food.  Like I’ve told Elliot, there are a lot of  ”junk food” books out there. While I don’t expect every book he reads to be a classic and I know he needs some just for fun books, for the most part we believe in a steady diet of quality literature that nourishes, inspires, shapes, teaches, and enriches us. Elliot’s response to this has been quite positive. He has communicated that he understands that and that he enjoys the good books I suggest for him. So there will be a “controlled freedom” when it comes to choosing reading material.

 

Read for the Heart: Whole Books for WholeHearted Families by Sarah Clarkson

Sarah Clarkson is the daughter of the well-known author, speaker, and homeschooling mother, Sally Clarkson. Sarah’s life and education were built upon their strong Christian faith and the wonderful books her parents surrounded her with. The way she goes into detail about how blessed she was to have parents who valued reading and gave her the gift of a childhood brimming with good books was very inspiring and made me excited about providing that for my kids too.

Sarah also discusses the decline of reading among today’s children, but she surmises that it is due to the new technology that they’re immersed in. She claims that things like television, video and computer games, and all the other devices now available to kids have stolen their ability to find books enticing and entertaining. The amount of television the average family watches when compared the the amount of time they spend reading is pretty shocking. Similar to what I read in The Book Whisperer, Sarah states that reading is the key to educational success and that it is impossible to be a successful student apart from mastery of the written word. The amount of exposure children have to a variety of words directly correlates with their vocabulary, thus it is the greatest determining factor in their success in all subjects. Still more on the subject: “Children who were surrounded by words from an early age were able to advance in every area of education, not just reading. On the other hand, children who lacked exposure to words lost ground in every area of study and mental development.”

Starting off, this book very much resembles the some of the what I read in The Book Whisperer, however it didn’t take long for Sarah’s quality over quantity philosophy to be clearly seen.  Don’t get me wrong, she stresses that doing a lot of reading is exceedingly beneficial to a child, but she certainly doesn’t suggest that a child should be reading anything and everything or that it should be completely his/her choice. She has a lot to say about the parent’s discernment in choosing their children’s books.

She begins by discussing picture books and how much the quality of books we choose for our very young children sets the stage for their relationship with good books in the future.  Similar to what I regularly say about myself, she admits that she has a personal vendetta against all the modern picture books with plain artwork and watered-down text, which she explains is insulting and assumes that children are not capable of deeper thought and an appreciation for beauty. She states, “Children fed on stick figures, cutesy drawings, and cartoon-like characters will have no appetite for Dickens, Rembrandt, or C.S. Lewis when they’re older.”  I wholeheartedly agree! (Part of the reason Five in a Row appealed to me so much is because of the quality of the picture books.)  I’m a firm believer in the importance of quality children’s books from early on . I confess, I am that mom who says “no” to certain books at the book store and then steers the kids towards other higher quality books. If it’s going to go on my shelf at home, I’ve got to see some real value in it. My kids have never been disappointed with our purchases.

There’s way too much in this book to go into great detail about all of it, but you’d be right in supposing that if she believes in quality from the beginning, she also believes in it throughout the rest of childhood. She goes through a number of genres such as the golden age classics, children’s fiction, historical fiction, biography, fantasy, poetry, music, art, nature, and books for spiritual growth and character development.  For each of them, she expounds on her enjoyable, imaginative, thought-provoking experiences with them and why those kinds of books were important in shaping who she has become. Finally, at the end of each section she lists a variety of book titles of which she can personally vouch for the content and literary quality. I found this extremely helpful.  While lots of the ones she lists are already ones I had planned on reading or giving to my kids to read, there were many new ones I learned about too. I currently have a list of hundreds of books that I feel good about, in regards to both appropriateness and literary excellence.  My kids have more than enough to choose from between now and the time they’re in junior high and beyond. Great books are plentiful!

Both of these books were really excellent and I gained something from each of them. I believe you can have it all, both quantity and quality when it comes to children’s books. There are so many wonderful books out there that there’s really no need waste your time settling for less. I can verify from experience that when a child has been exposed to lots of great literature, they will begin to find it thoroughly enjoyable, and naturally they will want more of it and the “junk food” books will be a lot less appealing.

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Week 32

We’re getting ready for a trip to Austin and San Antonio to conclude our Texas history study and then we’ll be enjoying one last week off before we finish up the rest of the school year.
Here’s what’s been happening in our homeschool recently:

Memory Verse: Jesus answered:”I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” – John 14:6

Hymn: Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee

Artist: Leonardo Da Vinci

Composer: George Gershwin

Five in a Row: Higgins Bend Song and Dance by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (studying rivers and fishing)

Pre-K Literature: Today I’m Going Fishing with my Dad by Chris Demarest (talking about fathers and fishing)

Read Aloud: The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White

A Few Photos From Last Week:

We went to the Dallas Zoo on Homeschool Day.

Bird Eggs

What kid wouldn’t love “guess the poop”?

Da Vinci’s Last Supper Picture Study

Despite Josh warning me that he has a history of bad luck when fishing, I really wanted to give it a shot, so we took the kids out to Lake Grapevine and enjoyed a picnic dinner and some fishing.

Despite what it may look like, this was not Josh’s attempt at a romantic gesture. Sadly, this was his only catch. But we’re going to try again very soon. I’m determined to catch a fish!

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