Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Library Day

Today was "library day." I have always tried to incorporate regular library visits into our schedule. My kids have learned so much just from perusing the baskets full of books we've carted home over the years. That has gotten me through many weeks when I really didn't have it very "together." (In fact, I'm sure there's a scripture somewhere in the New International Homeschool Version of the Bible that says, "Library visits cover over a multitude of sins.") When the kids were preschoolers we would go when the library had "storytime." (Though my favorite "storytimes" were at Barnes and Noble because Mommy could get a Starbucks there!) As they have gotten older we have continued our biweekly (-ish) library visits. It seems they look forward to it even more now than they did when they were younger. (And, God gave me back my Starbucks because a new drive-thru one was just built down the street from the library...)

Several years ago I got an idea from Jessie Wise, either from a workshop tape or from The Well-Trained Mind (I can't remember which). The idea is for them to have a list of various types of books that they are required to check out each time. They may, of course, check out books that they want, but they must choose at least one from each category. It keeps them reading different genres and styles of writing, and exposes them to a wider range of interests. I took her "categories" and typed up cards on cardstock which the kids have carry with them:

This has been very effective over the years. In fact, Kyle commented today that he was glad he got a book about Thomas Edison for his biography, as he has already learned some very interesting facts about him (and I know he wouldn't have naturally gravitated to the biography section on his own.) Bethany got a couple of Christmas craft books that I know she'll enjoy, even though she would normally hang out in the fiction section.

Something else I have found helpful is having a library clipboard. I used to use a plain one, but then I had to get the kind that has storage in it because mine was getting too full. On/in my clipboard I have a copy of the Sonlight books arranged in the Well-Trained Mind sequence, the kids' personalized booklists from Bookadventure.com, and a well-worn copy of Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt. Taped to the clipboard, under all of the papers, I have a copy of the Dewey Decimal Classification System, so we can find the different types of books on their lists more easily. Our library gives you a printout of what's been checked out on each card, so I keep that clipped on top so I can keep track of what we have out.

Since we've been known to cart home loads of books, I have a designated area of the house where all library books are kept- at all times! Occasionally one will end up on the nightstand next to a bed, but I'm a nut about making sure they keep them downstairs with all the other library books. Fines from lost or misplaced library books drive me crazy because we could've just gone and bought the book! (Besides, before I got my "system" down, we paid enough fines that they could've named the new branch of the library for our family.)

Something else we get each library visit are travel videos. I have found those very handy to put in while they are eating lunch or we all need a break. It's been a great way to "see the world" and has really expanded our horizons.
I hope that you have an accessible and easy-to-use library system where you are. It's been one our favorite hang-outs!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Off the hook!

Last weekend, we "decked the halls" around our house, preparing for our week of Thanksgiving-week camping. Words cannot express how great it felt yesterday to drive back into town listening to Christmas music on the radio, knowing that when I walked into my house I would see the stockings hung by the chimney with care!

Something occurred to me as I was putting up my decorations this year. As I was looping hook after hook through ornament upon ornament, I realized that if I was going to truly enjoy this holiday season it was time to let myself off of a few. Hooks that is. And my kids, too!

Many homeschool families take the entire month of December off in order to focus more energy on family time and the business of the holiday season. That idea really appealed to me when I first heard it years ago, and we tried it. For us, though, while it helped the month of December to go by more smoothly in the short run, it came back to bite us in January. January/February are typically hard months for homeschool moms anyway due to burnout, winter weather “blahs”, etc. and it didn’t help matters for me to be trying to get the kids back into the groove of school, and reacquainting them with the idea of a schedule or -for heaven’s sake- expectations. Add to that that math skills or other concepts would’ve slipped back into the nether reaches of their minds and it became rather frustrating to get back on track. SO the month-long break that seems to work for so many other families didn’t really work for us. However, a sure recipe for a January freak-out or a Christmas catharsis for me, would be to try to keep up our full school schedule along with everything else during the month of December.

So… I’ve let us “off the hook” in a few of our subjects beginning this week. (A few of our “ornamental” subjects, if you will!) They will still have their core subjects of math and literature. We’ll read a chapter a week of history. Latin will be Lingua Angelica hymns. (We’re learning Adeste Fideles now… so beautiful!) Bethany has her co-op this week and next week, but my friend and “co-teacher” and I have relaxed their assignments a bit. Instead of a full 5 day week I’m cutting it down to 4, or maybe even 3 ½ days per week, depending on what we need to do. I feel like I can breathe! And I smell cinnamon and evergreen!

Give yourself an early Christmas gift... look at your schedule and your lesson plans and see what you can "unhook" from. Then you won't be strung out like the Christmas lights, and you just might shine all the brighter during the holidays!

Friday, November 24, 2006


(Since we're gone, I'll post Friday's funny ahead of time...)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

I posted on my other blog that we will be gone for the week.

I am ready for a week of relaxing by the campfire, reading, thinking, praying, and being thankful.

Of course, I packed my Life Science TE (Teacher's Edition), my Texas History TE, my Greek books and some co-op essays to grade. (And I'm looking forward to it!)

If you are reading this, please know that I am thankful for you and praying for you.

See you in a week!

Monday, November 20, 2006

I can't wait to miss this...

Apparently Dr. Phil is going to dish on homeschooling this Friday. You can read about it at Spunky Homeschool, where there are additional links to those who were apparently duped into participating.


Hopefully everyone will be at the mall.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Taken from The Official Book of Homeschooling Cartoons Vol. 2 - by Todd Wilson www.familymanweb.com

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

You know you're a homeschooler...

when you look over the list of supplies needed for tomorrow's science project:
  • cheese cloth
  • 2 thermometers
  • craft foam
  • cottom batting
  • metric measuring cups
  • 150 g aquarium rocks
  • balance (mass scale)

and think, "Oh, good. It's stuff we already have on hand..."


A Fun Project

The Texas History project (that inspired a pancake) is finished! Bethany has spent the past couple of months taking pictures of the shape of Texas all over the place. Her assignment was to not only find and photograph the shape of Texas in as many places as she could, but to design a way to creatively display the pictures. We went to Hobby Lobby this week, where she walked around and got ideas.

This is what she came up with: She got a 12 x 12 plain wooden frame and decoupaged some patterned scrapbook paper and some stickers around the border. Then she made a collage with her favorite shots of "Texas," and voila!

I think it turned out great. And since I'm the one who's grading it, as Martha Stewart would say... "It's a good thing."

Great job, Bethany! I love being your teacher!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Have you discovered...

... cosmeo.com yet? We have had a trial membership for about a month now, and I have decided we will subscribe because it is proving to be worth the $8.85 (two medium Starbucks!) a month.

At this moment, Kyle is in the study watching video excerpts and reading articles that go along with key words from his science chapter. In preparing for our next science co-op lecture, I found some great little video segments on "Kingdom Monera" and bacteria. So far we have mainly been utilizing the site for science, but all subject areas are covered.

You can have a one month free trial before the paid subscription begins, so the holiday breaks might be a great time to spend some time letting the kids scope it out. I know it's helped me to feel like I have a few more resources at my fingertips, which I can always use!

Monday, November 13, 2006


We spent the morning defending the Alamo, and that can really wear a person out!

It's a little like watching "Titanic." You know how it's going to end. But it was an interesting depiction of historical figures that as a Texan, have always been almost legendary to me. I was intrigued by how Davy Crockett's death was portrayed. One of my very favorite characters in this movie was Colonel Travis.

But, I must say, Sam Houston rocks.

Especially if he's Dennis Quaid.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Grading and Replacing

I'f I've done my cutting and pasting on Friday (which, thankfully I did this week!) then Sunday afternoons find me "grading and replacing." I grade the previous week's work and replace it in their weekly binders with the current week's assignments. I've been trying to stay better about going through their work daily, so I've been having them pull their completed work out of their binders each day and put it in their bins, and then I grade them as I have make time during the week.

I have really enjoyed having grade sheets in Excel on my computer this year. If you become familiar at all with how to build a spreadsheet, the handy "sum" feature will put a formula in for you that will keep a running average of their grades. (In the younger grades I didn't worry about grades at all, but now with a middle schooler who's working more independently, I want to know how she's progressing and get her used to the feedback that grades provide. )

My system of binders has also helped with this process this year. I have all of their consumable books/ worktexts cut and 3-hole punched, then I store them in binders. (This is particularly useful with the 5th grade materials.) I pull the papers that will be assigned on a given week and put them in that section of the weekly notebook. I keep a small post-it note sticking out of the main binder so I'll know where we are in the book and where to replace the papers once they're done. After they've been completed and graded, back into the binder they go and the next week's worth is pulled.

I don't always get this done on Sunday. Sometimes I get up Monday and put them together. Since we've begun doing art on Mondays, I have found that I have time to put their new work in their notebooks while they're working on a project. If all else fails, there is plenty for them to do while they wait for me to "get it together" for them for the week- read their assigned reading, do their computer work (French and/or typing), or do work from one section while I assemble the others.

Whatever system you put in place, the key is to make it work for you, not the other way around!

Have a blessed week!

Friday, November 10, 2006


Taken from The Official Book of Homeschooling Cartoons Vol. 2 - by Todd Wilson www.familymanweb.com

Monday, November 06, 2006

Another thing you (probably) can't do in a traditional classroom...

I LOVE it when God does this...

A few years ago the kids and I were reading Jim Elliot- One Great Purpose, a powerful biography of one of the five missionaries martyred in Ecuador in 1956. We got to one part that said, "Sunday, January 8, 1956 was going to be a day to remember, Jim told himself. Since arriving in Ecuador as a missionary in 1952, not a day had gone by that had meant as much to him as today did." We all got shivers as we realized that the "day to remember" would be the day he would be killed. We then got shivers again when we realized that as we read, the date that day was January 8.

Flash forward a couple more years. We were reading another missionary biography, this time it was a biography of Lillian Trasher called The Nile Mother. Lillian Trasher was a missionary to Egypt who started an orphanage and is still highly revered there as her work is carried on. We came to a part that said, "October 8, 1910 is a red-letter day in the life of Lillian Trasher. It had been just four months before that God had called her to leave home and country." It went on to describe her journey, by boat, from New York to the Mediterranean. The date the day we read that was, you guessed it, October 8. Not only that, but we had some dear friends who had left that day on a mission team bound for Egypt. Whoa.

Today as the kids munched their lunch, I read aloud a chapter from Mr. Pipes and Psalms and Hymns of the Reformation. This period in history has been so interesting, and reading about what took place during the Reformation has been especially applicable on the heels of Reformation Day last week. We were reading about the battles that broke out all over Germany as the Roman Catholic imperial forces tried to wipe out the Christian followers of Martin Luther. Gustavus Adolphus, the king of Sweden, left throne and family to come defend the rights of others to worship freely. The chapter built, describing what terrible atrocities lead to this one, key battle. One paragraph in particular dramatically portrayed how "Gustavus fell to his knees and with all his army prayed for God's deliverance from the enemy. The king rose from his knees, mounted his horse, and rode in front of his men crying together, "God with us!" Then, accompanied by the blast of trumpets and the rumble of kettledrums, he led them in singing Luther's great battle hymn, 'A Mighty Fortress.' " The date of that battle? November 6, 1632.

God is so cool.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Cutting and Pasting

It's Friday afternoon! Time to cut and paste!

No, not for an art project (we usually do those on Mondays now) but for lesson planning. For me, one of the benefits of doing my lesson planning on my computer is that at the end of the week I can simply cut what we didn't get done and paste it onto next week. If I already have things already down for the next week, I simply (you guessed it!) cut it and paste it later in the week, or on the next week. This has worked so much better for me than writing in a plan book and drawing numerous arrows or erasing.

When I sit down to plan, I usually plan two weeks at a time. Anytime I have projected any further than that, I have almost inevitably had to totally redo them. (I have already done my planning for the year, so I know roughly where we should be in each subject. My weekly planning involves specific page numbers and activities.) On Friday afternoons I look at the upcoming week, making adjustments where necessary, and then plan the following week as well. Of course, it's impossible to know exactly how long certain chapters/units/lessons might take. It's also impossible to know ahead of time who's going to get sick any given week. For instance, as I'm looking at my plans for next week (that I projected two weeks ago) I see that I thought we'd be farther along in History, but we've covered more ground in Literature than I thought we would, so I tweak things. And "tweaking" looks so much nicer when it's done on the computer, because you just cut, paste, print it out and it's a nice new sheet that looks like it's been that way all along! It looks so... together!

There are several reputable homeschool planning software programs available, but for now I just use my trusty Excel program. I created my own forms, but if you have Excel you can download a great weekly planner from Donna Young's site that you can modify digitally.

Cutting and pasting school plans may not be as fun as an art project, but a well-planned week can be a beautiful thing!


Taken from The Official Book of Homeschooling Cartoons Vol. 2 - by Todd Wilson www.familymanweb.com

Thursday, November 02, 2006

E Pluribus Unum

"E Pluribus Unum." "One out of many," (or literally, "Out of many, one.") Before I had ever cracked open a copy of Minimus or my (now-well-worn copy of) The Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning Latin , I recognized that Latin phrase seen on the Great Seal of the U.S. A few weeks ago it was our phrase in our Latina Christiana lesson. More recently it was seen on the quarters that I paid my kids for their Latin memory work! Yes, I decided (or should I say resorted) to paying them 50 cents a sheet for their Latin recitations. I know, I know... paying for grades or performance is frowned upon by some. I read Punished by Rewards a few years ago and agreed wholehearedly with Kohn's premise that rewarding students for learning can reduce it to a chore or something in which they won't see the inherent value. Imposing a value or reward on it might imply that it doesn't possess any merit on its own.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

I just want them to learn their conjugations and declensions. (They don't have to love it.) And my daughter just wants iTunes money. Besides, I have jars and jars of change under my bed. Might as well put them to good use! (By the way, if you've gotten this far and are thinking, "Why study Latin anyway?" you may want to read this or Google the words "why Latin" before continuing. Otherwise you may think I'm nuts or mean... or both.)

I've been printing out the slides that are on the DVD (available at Memoria Press' website) and stapling them into a folder. The folders have been handy to have to carry around, stick in the car or flop open during our recitations without having to flip through their workbooks. They do great during our Latin "class" time, but weren't very successful as of yet with memorizing the different endings for the cases and declensions which are required for the work going forward. SO, one day I said, "Okay. 50 cents a square. Let me know when you're ready so I'll have my coin jars with me." Within a few days, there they appeared, folders in hand. One and then the other presented his or her folder and began reciting page-after-page of Latin prayers, cases, declensions and conjugations. One earned $6. One earned $6.50. We're moving on in Latin. Life is good!

E Pluribus Unum. Maybe I should change that to Ex unus plures: Many out of one. Out of one folder... much memory work. Out of one mouth... many phrases. Out of one jar... many quarters.

Hey, sometimes you just gotta do what works!

"Labor omnia vincit." Virgil


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