Monday, July 31, 2006

Aaargh... Good Reading, Matey!

I received my Veritas Press order a couple of weeks ago. This year I ordered these books, recommended by VP for grade 5. They are better than I expected! All three are beautifully illustrated, with nice, glossy pages. Truly quality books. Great stories, too!

With the current "Pirates of the Caribbean" craze, a pirate-themed book will capture most 10-year-old boys' imaginations!

Blackthorn Winter
"Set on the eastern seaboard in the third year of the reign of good Queen Anne, this pirate novel contrasts righteous behavior and foolishness. The story follows the service of fifteen-year-old Thomas Ingle on the Prudent Hannah under the honorable Captain Monroe and then their unfortunate tour on the Lady Constance. Treasure, financial hardship, and pirate mystique all add to the cleverly woven tale. Kid's won't put it down, and you won't either." Kyle discovered it the day it came and started reading it immediately. I managed to pry it away from him and put it away for school, though.

Here are the other titles we bought, along with the description from the catalog:

Susan Creek
"Sequel to Blackthorn Winter, yet clever enough to stand on its own. Wilson's further venture into historic fiction once again captured the discerning interest of our four boys and will captivate your students, too. Set during the Great Awakening, this story provides inimitable opportunity for proving how godly boys become godly men. "

Squalls Before War
"Using extensive research and the actual logs of her tour of the colonies from 1768-1772, a tale is spun about the Royal Navy's smallest schooner. The Boston Massacre, the Great Awakening and even George Washington play a part in this account of colonial life. It's as close to being there as is possible without a time machine!"

Kyle will be reading these this year, along with some selections from Sonlight, usually sequenced according to this helpful booklist. From the looks of it, though, the above books will be a highlight!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

We have Contact...

We saw these wooden chalkboard bins at Target a couple of weeks ago and thought they were cute idea, but they ranged in price from $9.99 to $24.99 apiece, which was more than I wanted to spend. Plus, being wooden, they were pretty heavy. That same week at the Mardel sale, I bought a roll of chalkboard Contact paper, just because I thought it was pretty cool! Last week at Dollar General I found some bins that I liked for $2 and $3 and copied the idea from Target:

These are for the kids to turn their work/ daily binders in each day to be checked/ graded. I've always done Bethany's "stuff" in blue and Kyle's in green, so I can know at a glance whose is whose! I like having chalkboard on the bins so I can write fun notes of encouragement or reminders.

I have two shelves designated for all the teacher editions and extra resources that correspond with their respective curricula. These smaller bins hold the thinner, soft cover books really well, I think.

When we saw how cute the chalkboard-Contact looked on the boxes (and how easy it was to write on!) we looked around for other places to use it.

They each have one of those skinny Rubbermaid organizer carts (with the wheels off) next to their desks. Those have proven very useful and versatile over the years. Well, with a little chalkboard-Contact they are also a bit cuter! We've used it on these particular areas where the contents sometimes change, so a fixed label wouldn't be as useful.

We are having fun getting our school room spruced up with a few inexpensive touches. We've been doing a bit of summer school each day, but doing some new things to the school room is getting us in back-to-school mode as August approaches. (Next week!)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Star Crossed

**As is so often the case, life-lessons and school-lessons have "intersected." I posted this today on my other blog. If you read both, I apologize for the "cross"post. :) **

Last night, our teaching pastor delivered a message entitled, "Stars." The focus scripture was Psalm 19:

"The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of His hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge." (verses 1 & 2)

If, he pointed out, "day after day they pour forth speech," what are the stars saying?
1. He is God. (verse 1)
2. That we are not. (Isaiah 40 :25-26)
3. We are loved. (Psalm 8: 3-4)

It was an excellent, excellent message (and very timely for us as we are studying astronomy!)

As I listened, I was reminded of a similar message I heard a few months ago by Louis Giglio at a Chris Tomlin concert. There was a certain photo he showed that absolutely took my breath away, so I stayed up late last night searching the internet for it. I found it at the Hubble Site:

This image of the core of the nearby Whirlpool Galaxy, was taken with the camera on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. It shows a striking , dark "X" silhouetted across the galaxy's nucleus. The "X" is due to absorption by dust and marks the exact position of a black hole which may have a mass equivalent to one-million stars like the sun.

What this looks like to me, is a reminder that "we are loved." (NASA can call it an "X" if they want... the Greek letter "chi" is a common abbreviation for "Cristos" in some New Testament manuscripts.) I love that it's due to "absorption by dust" and marks a massive black hole. My punishment was absorbed on the cross, and my sin may as well have disappeared into a black hole. What a glorious thought!

Our pastor quoted from the book, The Privileged Planet , that "Earth is located in the prime place for life, but also observation." From that he highlighted the fact that "God gave us the best platform to observe and know Him." According to the NASA website, "the [Whirlpool] galaxy is spectacular because it is tilted nearly face-on to Earth, allowing for an unobstructed view of its bright core."


Unobstructed view.

The best platform to observe and know Him.

This morning I am reminded afresh that the cross of Christ is a "face-on, unobstructed view" of the Father's love for us. It is the "platform by which we may observe and know Him." The cross is there, for those who will find it. And it is there to be found.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Don't forget to schedule playtime!

I read this article today, a great reminder for me as I'm thinking through our daily school schedule:
Good news for kids: Doctors advise more play
Youngsters between 5 and 16 need to be active for 1 1/2 hours a day

"European and international health experts say a new study makes the most convincing case yet for the benefits of children being active. They say the research may lead to new guidelines saying youngsters between ages 5 and 16 need to be active up to 1½ hours a day."For some parents, that might be accomplished simply by showing their children the door.

Now, that doesn't mean that we need to now enroll all our homeschooled kids in structured PE classes. To the contrary:

"For some parents, that might be accomplished simply by showing their children the door. “Just making sure children play outside will double the amount of physical activity they get,” said Dr. Lars Bo Andersen, lead author of the research published Friday in the medical journal Lancet."

Some other quotes of note:

“We don’t need to be getting kids running in the gym on treadmills,” said Cavill. “We need to encourage kids to play.” One of the study’s key findings, he explained, is that it proves the utility of short bursts of activity, rather than a need for continuous exercise.
The researchers said physical activity does not demand intense exercise, such as playing soccer or tennis. “There is a value to five- and 10-minute bouts of activity, where kids will run for a little while and then stop,” said Cavill.

(The entire article is really good- these are just the parts that jumped out at me.)

I'm glad for this reminder, especially now that my kids are older. I don't know that I would place that much importance on getting them outside, and especially for 1-1/2 hours a day. We have a treadmill which they both enjoy using, but I think I'm going to be "showing them the door" more. There's more of an emphasis on outside playtime when they are younger, but older kids and adults need it just as much. In Greater Health God's Way Stormie Omartian says that, "I've seen people who were sickly and suffering from insomnia and nervous disorders become new people when they took on a program of physical activity in the great outdoors." Sounds like it would be good for me, too!

One of my goals for this year will be to let school out(side) more often!

Thursday, July 20, 2006


We took our telescope to west Texas this week. Since we are studying astronomy, I thought it would be a perfect time for stargazing out in the country, away from the city lights. I composed this song to commemorate the special time the kids and I shared out under the Texas sky.

It is to be sung to the tune of "Deep in the Heart of Texas." A Texas accent is optional (for some people, not me!) and adds additional flavor to this meaningful song...

The stars at night
Are big and bright
But Mom can't wo-o-rk the telescope.

We looked and looked
We checked the book
But it was n-o-o-t what we'd hoped.

"Hey, I can't see!"
"Oh, here.. let me..."
Good grief, what a-a-re we doin' wrong?

The sky we scanned,
I had it planned
'Cause I'm a Ga-a-alileo Mom!

We all took turns
But 'twas a blur
It's harder th-a-an it oughtta be

"Hands-on" science
Could lead to violence
In the name of astonomy!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Goal- Setting

This weekend I'm working on setting specific goals for our homeschool. In "The Organized Homeschooler" by Vicki Caruana (mentioned in my previous post), she has a diagram of a target. In the center of the target it says, "Goals." There are four arrows aiming at the target. Each arrow is labeled, "Activities," "Curriculum, "Evaluation," and "Field Trips." It has really gotten me to think! It seems so simple! The ideas of goal-setting and mission statements are discussed in many homeschool resources that I've read over the years. I've sort of nodded my head and highlighted those sections of books, and while I've had a general idea of what I want our homeschool to accomplish, I've mainly just claimed those wonderful verses in Deuteronomy as my overarching goal or purpose in homeschooling. There's a quote that says, "If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there?" Caruana turns it around to say, "If you know where you're going, you'll know when you get there." I love that!

As I look at the target diagram in the book, I can imagine some general goals that I do have in the center of my target. I can see my "curriculum" arrow pointing at the target. However, as I imagine it, some of my "activity" and "field trip" arrows are either not pointing at the target, or are pointing at the "curriculum" arrow, causing it to veer off course! As August approaches and it's time to sign up for field trips and activities, I'm going to be sure that what we sign up for actually helps us achieve our goals.

Once I figure out exactly what they are!

Fun Stuff

Yesterday was the annual "educator sale" at Mardel. Usually at this point in the year, I've already acquired or at least ordered the bulk of our school books, and I always enjoy getting the "fun stuff" at 20% off at Mardel. This year I got:

*neon colored notebook paper
*"The Scrambled States of America" game
*"Mad Gab" Bible game
*a woodburning art kit
*Magicnuudles "bold stix" (same as the regular kind, but longer)
*a big tub of white Crayola Model Magic clay
*a pack of poster board
*a small science fair board
*chalkboard Contact paper
*construction paper
*Mary Engelbreit file folders
*fun highlighters that clip into your binder or on your bag
*neon colored notecards
*Post-it notes
*poster paint (I always buy big bottles of the primary colors and make them mix the colors themselves)
*"A&M" spiral and folder (Bethany picked these out for her-- a daily reminder to me that college is only 6 years away. No pressure there!)

In the "might-be-fun-but-not-necessarily" category I picked up the BJU Life Science Activity Manual for Bethany and "Handwriting Without Tears" Cursive Success for Kyle. Buried underneath this pile of "fun stuff" somewhere is my copy of The Organized Homeschooler that I bought a couple of nights ago at Barnes and Noble. Judging by the stacks and crates all around me, I need to start reading it!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"Teacher" Voice

Yesterday afternoon, when I finally could read without feeling too dizzy, we began The Fallacy Detective. I've decided to go through this book and perhaps The Thinking Toolbox before we begin Memoria Press' Traditional Logic course. I was sitting on the couch after battling a headache for much of the day (as I mentioned in my previous post), I grabbed the book off of the coffee table and called the kids into the living room. I wanted to read the first chapter of the book so I would feel like we got something done that day. They seated themselves comfortably on the big chairs on the opposite side of the room, settling in, just like they do every other day of the school year. As I began reading, a grin spread across my 12 year old's face. I noticed, but didn't say anything. There is a bit of humor in the book, so I figured she was finding it... well, humorous. So, I kept reading. She kept smiling. Finally, I put the book down and looked at her.

"You're using your teacher voice."


"Your teacher voice. You're using it right now. I can always tell when you're using your teacher voice."

"What do you mean? I'm just reading a book."

"Yep. In your teacher voice."

Well, hmph. I haven't been in the classroom for over 10 years, but I still have a teacher voice. Which apparently comes out, even when I'm sitting cross-legged on the couch at home on a summer afternoon.

Later that evening at dinner, I asked them again.

"So, do I really have a 'teacher' voice?"

My son replied, "Yeah. Trust us. We've lived with you for 12 years and 10 years. We know. But, don't worry, it's not a bad thing! You do have it though..."

I've shed a lot of what I used to do in the classroom because much of it is unnecessary or even ineffective in homeschooling. But, apparently I didn't lose 'the voice'! I'm going to start watching myself. I may start calling the roll, marking their behavior folders and making them line up to get a drink...

Summer School

So, I had decided that we would get back to business, academically speaking, on July 10. We have already been "off" since the middle part of May when Bethany was preparing to go to China. I have found that if we take big chunks of time completely off from working on certain subjects ::cough:: math ::cough::, we forget.

As I planned it, Monday, July 10 was to be the day. Yep. Got it down. Sunday they were invited to spend the night with their cousins and spend all day Monday at the lake with their Grandma, aunts, and cousins before they all went to Vacation Bible School that evening. Well, that was that. Monday at the lake. (Which I was glad for, they don't spend enough time with their sweet cousins.)

Okay, Tuesday! That's when we'll "hit it." (I've always said "hit it." Awhile back I said, "We're really gonna---" and Bethany broke in and said, "I know. 'Hit it.' " LOL) Well, I woke up full of plans, got dressed and ready... and then spent the day battling dizziness and what I believe to have been a mild migraine. I asked the kids if either of them had put a hex on me... They looked at each other innocently and denied it, but I'm still not convinced.

Alrighty, then. Wednesday it is. I feel much better today. We'll see what happens!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy 230th Birthday, America!

"Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army."
~Edward Everett

"Did you know America ranks the lowest in education but the highest in drug use? It's nice to be number one, but we can fix that. All we need to do is start the war on education. If it's anywhere near as successful as our war on drugs, in no time we'll all be hooked on phonics."
~Leighann Lord

Monday, July 03, 2006

Medieval Times

Last night we took a break from 2006 USA and travelled back in time to 1093 Spain. We capped off (or should I say "crowned") our study of the Medieval/Early Renaissance with a trip to Medieval Times restaurant. It was fun! We cheered for the Red Knight who, alas, was defeated by the Green Knight. We then threw our full support behind the Black and White Knight who was our ally. The show was full of great theme music, beautiful horses and costumes, lots of dry ice, special effects, spotlights and plenty of combat. And, bonus- we got to eat our entire meal with our hands!

Last time we studied this time period, we went to a Renaissance fair. This time we decided we'd do Medieval Times restaurant. Next time we cycle back through the Renaissance/ Reformation (as I've already noted in my 2009 lesson plan book) we'll just go to Europe. And since we always do everything in my plan book, I'm sure it will happen...


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Copycat Shoes

I bought a pair of "copycat shoes" yesterday. You know, you see a cute pair of shoes on a girlfriend, say, "Cute shoes! Where'd you get those?" and then go pick up the same pair for yourself, imagining that you'll look just as cute in them. These were copycat flip flops, actually, and rather than having asked her where she got them, I stealthily tossed them into my basket yesterday at Target. So, actually, no one but me would know they were copycat. I mean, we all buy flip flops at Target, right? Well, today I put them on and they are SO... uncomfortable! Of course, I slipped them on yesterday at the store, but they were attached to each other, so I couldn't get the "feel" of them. (You can't freely flip and flop in them when there is elastic holding them together!) I simply checked for size and off I went. HOW can flip flops be this uncomfortable? Well, they are. Hmph.

I've bought exactly three pair of copycat shoes in my life. This is the third time that they have not fit. I think I see a pattern here! Now, I've had shoes before that I've chosen, only to discover that several other people have those same shoes. To me, that's not the same as a copycat shoe because I picked them out for myself. We just all happen to have made the same choice. I've been shopping with a friend and we have mutually agreed that some shoes were cute, tried them on together, and have decided then whether or not to purchase them for ourselves. Those haven't been copycat shoes, either. No, exactly three times I have bought shoes I wasn't otherwise looking for simply because those shoes look SO great/ comfortable/stylish/ hip ...on her. Exactly three times those shoes have been a complete wrong fit for me.

I realized today that I have done this with homeschool curriculum as well. Copycat curriculum. I have shelves and filing cabinets full of it! We, as homeschoolers, are so prone to chronic curriculum comparison. The curriculum is always greener on the other side of the exhibit hall! So often I have read one mention of what worked for someone on a message board or heard a friend talk positively about a certain program, and have bought it (even when what we were using was working!) only to find that it just doesn't fit. Just like shoes, we must walk in our curriculum daily. And ill-fitting curriculum can be painful! Sure, sometimes we make informed choices and carefully research curriculum, only to discover that it doesn't quite match with our teaching style, our kids' learning styles, or the flow of our schedule. But how often do we see what works for another family, what looks so good on another family, and immediately get it for ourselves? Families, like feet, have different sizes, shapes, and dynamics. And, no, it's not always possible to get the complete "feel" for curriculum until you get it home and try it on. Just like shoes that are tied together at the store, sometimes you've got to get the books home, get the shrink-wrap off of them and try them on. Sometimes you've got to "flip" and "flop" in it for a few weeks! This summer as I'm continuing to purchase next year's curriculum, I'm going to be more aware of why I'm buying what I'm buying. Is it a well-researched recommendation or is it a copycat?

Anyone wear a size 7? Can I interest you in a pair of flip flops?......


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