Monday, December 21, 2009

He's Here

Now that my kids are older (read: teenagers) I miss reading "storybook" type books to them. I really do! I don't know if they miss it as much as I do, but that's been something I've mourned as they've gotten older. We read aloud still, but it's chapter books, British Literature, and other selections. One thing I've loved since our adoption, however, is that I can go back through some picture books and story Bibles with all of the kids again, and they'll listen with their new brother. Because, you know, it's for him.

One book we've been reading that came out after my kids were small is the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. The subtitle of the book is "Every story whispers his name" (referring to Jesus). Oh, how true! The Christmas season (if you listen) shouts Jesus' name, and passages like Luke 2 wonderfully depict the birth of Christ. But what I never truly realized until recently, and what this book helps kids to see is how every single other story in the Bible points directly to Christ. I have been captivated by Lloyd-Jones' masterful ability to bring that out.

Just last week, we were reading the story about Abraham sacrificing Isaac, and it said "They climbed the steep stony trail up the mountain. Isaac carried the wood on his back. His father carried the knife and the coals."

At the end of the story, she draws this amazing parallel: "Many years later, another Son would climb another hill, carrying wood on his back. Like Isaac, he would trust his Father and do what his Father asked. He wouldn't struggle of run away. Who was he? God's Son, his only Son- the Son he loved. The Lamb of God."

My older son (13) said quietly, "Wow. I never thought of that before. That's so true!"

Here is a wonderful video from the book with the story of the birth of Christ. I love this. I needed to see this, and so did my kids.

I'm so glad He's here.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Have I Not Posted Since October???

What on earth?


This has been sort of a nutty school year. And by "nutty" I mean, really trying to do it well, sticking to a schedule, and not blogging as much.

But, alas, it's December and it hasn't been as rigorous a school year as I was aiming for, I'm quite sure I'm not "doing it" as "well" (what does that mean, anyway?) and sticking to a schedule doesn't always work. And I've still not blogged as much!

Well, here's a quick post about something that I've been using this year:

What a helpful site!

It's got loads of links, but I've found the ESL section especially helpful, as well as Shakespeare and Dickens.

I've got so much more to say. Like how much I'm LOVING Sonlight for my 8th grader and 5th grader. Like how homeschooling high school is the toughest job you'll ever love. Stuff like that. But right now I'm behind on grading and I've got to read the next chapter of A Christmas Carol.

Oh, blog. I miss you.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

If You Give a Former-Bandsie-Turned-Homeschool-mom a symphony CD play for her kids to prepare them for the upcoming DSO youth concert, sooner or later she's going to get out the recording of her wedding music (Reunion Brass).

After she gets through crying about how much she loves her cute husband, she'll get out her french horn, which of course means she'll try to play along with "Fanfare for the Common Man."

This will make her attempt to hit the high B at the end.

And the kids will get to see new veins pop out on her forehead, which will lead to a discussion on the circulatory system.

Once she regains consciousness and her hearing returns, she'll probably want a cd to listen to...

Friday, September 11, 2009

The "Real World"

"What will happen when your kids (meaning, my homeschooled kids) have to encounter the 'real world' someday?"

That's a question I've heard often during my years of homeschooling. It's usually a sincere question, but one that indicates that the person asking it doesn't feel that being at home is being part of the "real world." It's actually a mindset that I, myself, had before I left the classroom to be a full time stay-at-home mom.

I remember very, very well what we were doing the morning of September 11, 2001. We were living in an apartment, having sold our house and in the process of building another one in a neighboring community. My husband traveled and was not home, and would be sitting in a board room in Corpus Christi, TX for most of the day. My children (kindergarten and 2nd grade at the time) and I were sitting at our little dining table in that small, third-floor apartment finishing breakfast and prayer time and beginning our schoolwork. The phone rang, and it was a friend who knew I wouldn't have the TV on, telling me I'd better turn it on. I watched in horror as I saw what had happened to the first tower. Then I saw it happen to the second tower. In the meantime the report came on about the Pentagon. It was horrific and surreal. But it was real. It was happening. It was something that would impact all of us, and it was unfolding at that very moment.

I remember being so glad my kids were there with me that day. We were able to discuss what was going on and to immediately go to our knees in prayer. I didn't have to wonder if I should go get them at school. (I know many who wanted their kids with them, and rightly so.) We were able to discuss that no, we were not in danger of a plane being flown into our apartment even though we were on the third floor (a very real concern to a 5 year old, who thought three flights of stairs was a skyscraper!) They were able to talk to their father on the phone, who was getting one of the last rental cars available in the city where he was, and to pray while he drove home. They processed what was going on in the way their minds could comprehend it, all the while being reminded that God is in control and being comforted by their mother. I remember that God gave me the hymn "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" that day. I tried to help the three of us keep our eyes on Jesus, especially given what was in front of our eyes on the news.

Meanwhile, the kids in the elementary school near us knew nothing about what was going on (not that they should've told them in that setting). Since it was not known if schools were a target, the administration made the (wise) decision not to allow them to go outside for recess, and they were told it was because of an "ozone warning." The horror-stricken teachers had to slip out of their classes and go down to the office or teacher's lounge to catch snippets of what had happened, all the while not letting on to their students that one of the most historic events to happen in our country in their lifetime was unfolding. The students continued doing their work as if everything was fine, and the teachers had to stay in their classrooms, largely uninformed.

Who was experiencing the "real world" that day? My kids or those kids? Those of us who knew what was going on or the ones who were sequestered away from it? I don't get into the "public school vs. homeschool" debates, and I don't think homeschooling is always superior for every child, but I do tire of the argument that homeschoolers aren't in the "real world."

It's days like this that remind me that yes, they are.

Originally posted 9-11-07

Friday, August 14, 2009


I posted this a couple of years ago. Now I'm seriously considering this...

Taken from the Official Book of Homeschooling Cartoons

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

So Much Time, So Little to Say! Wait, Reverse That...

Well, I haven't posted since May! How did that happen? And before that it was sparse. Oh how I've missed my homeschool blog and blogland in general!

It's that time of year... time to finalize curriculum orders, make sure everything's in place and ready-set-go! I am going to have to simply post some school "blurbs" periodically on this blog because coherent, cohesive, well-written, informative posts just aren't going to come. So today I thought I'd pop in and post some of the things I've bought and what we're doing for school this year. I'm still working it into schedules, making all the pieces fit. Honestly, that is the hard part this year. I'm having such "analysis paralysis," due in part to our adoption. I don't know how long I can blame it on that, but that's what I'm currently attributing it to. But that's another post.


This year I'll have an 11th grader (HOW did that happen??? I blinked!!) an 8th grader, and an ESL 5th grader. Fun fun!! God is so good!!

Here's what's on tap for each of them:

11th grader (my super-studious textbooky daugher):

Apologia Chemistry
Math-U-See Honors Geometry
Abeka U.S. Government
Economics using Blue Stocking Guide and Whatever Happened to Penny Candy
BJU Spanish 1
BJU British Literature
Writing and Grammar 11
Analytical Grammar- Teaching the Essay and Research Paper

8th grader (my history-buff son who loves piles of books):

Sonlight 100: In-depth American History (History, Literature and Bible)
Apologia Physical Science
Math-U-See Honors Algebra 1
Clase Divertida Spanish Level 3 (finishing in the fall, not sure what for spring)
Wordly Wise 3000 book 7 (fall) and book 8 (spring)
WriteShop 1

5th grade ESL (our newly-adopted 10 year old son who's been home from Ethiopia about 10 months)

Sonlight 1: Introduction to World History Part 1 (with Readers 1) (Literature, Reading and Bible)
Right Start Math
WriteShop Primary A
"Extreme Science"- 1 hours per week of hands-on experiments offered at a local co-op
Abeka Science Readers (he loves these, really!) grade 3 fall, grade 4 spring
Wordly Wise A (fall) and B (spring)

I have SO much more to say!! About homeschooling a high schooler. About teaching and transitioning an English Language Learner. About having one in high school, middle school and elementary school. About scheduling. About burnout before you begin. About being overwhelmed with life as well as with JOY. But, that will have to wait until another day.

I hope you have had an amazing, relaxing, and rejuvenating summer and are gearing up for the BEST school year ever!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Copycat Shoes

This was originally posted in July 2006, but I reposted it today in honor of the newest pair of "copycat shoes" I bought today.

Oh, yes I did. :::sigh:::


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?......

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Works for Me: Weekly Binders

Honestly. This has been THE most scattered homeschool year I've had in my 11 years of homeschooling. I was foggy-brained last half of last schoolyear while we were going through the adoption of our newest child, our precious 9 year old son from Ethiopia. Then, this school year we traveled as a family to bring him home and have been transitioning him for the past 8 months... so that remains my excuse for being scattered, confused, and generally discombobulated.

BUT... this has worked for me this year, so I wanted to share it!

I have posted my different organizational systems over the years... I think I've done it all, but for some reason this year it blew apart. So, I've scraped it together into something else that works for me: weekly binders. My planning strategy remains the same... my trusty laptop and Excel spreadsheets, but putting the younger boys' work together for the week in binders has really helped us keep it all together.

I color code my kids, so when we adopted Minte I assigned him a color... the only one I had heard him say in English: "red." I found these fun "Zwipes" binders at the office store this year, and they enjoy writing and drawing on the front, and sometimes I'll write them a note of encouragement. This week the front of Minte's is simple: "Minte's School."

Here is his binder on his desk this morning, ready for the day's work.

Each day has a tab, and the dividers are heavy-duty plastic with pockets, because I cram it ALL into these binders...

Here is Minte's binder open to today. He's got a book for drawing insects, which he'll be reading about in his Science reader today, also in a heavy-duty plastic pocket behind the "Wednesday" tab. His pages for cutting out and sequencing his Bible story, and other work are all ready for today. You can see the owl he made yesterday when he read about owls. The paper sack and all the owl cut-outs were in a pocket page behind the Tuesday tab. Basically, every single thing he'll need for each day I try to find a way to put in that binder!

In the front of his binder is his weekly assignment sheet. (You can click on the photo to make it larger.) I thought this would be too complicated for him to see each week, but he saw that's what his older brother had (Kyle wanted the whole week instead of the daily assignment sheets I used to do) and wanted one, too. He loves marking off the assignments each day! On the right you can see that I obviously utilize DVD's and CD-roms for part of his school, and those are in 3-ring DVD pockets so I'm not chasing those down in other locations when it's time for school. We also use the BOB books, so those are in the pockets for each day as well. See? I cram it all in there, LOL.

Here is what Kyle's looked like this morning. His assignment sheet lives in the front as well, and there are his Teaching Textbooks CD and his BJU Science DVD ready for the week. In the front (on the right) is also a math "cheat sheet" I made him for now for some of his measurement conversions for math. I laminated that and it lives in the front of his binder all the time as well.

These have been handy because if we are heading out on some errands they can grab their binders and have most of their school with them. I spend time at the end of each week transferring their week's work into each of their large 4-inch binders divided by subject, where I'm storing their year's work.

I know everyone has their "systems", and weekly binders are certainly nothing new or particularly innovative, but these work for me!

For more tips, visit Kristen at We are That Family. Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Homeschooling For High School

Taken from the Official Book of Homeschooling Cartoons

Well, that's one way to do it, I suppose! And don't think I haven't thought of that!

Another way to do it is... HANG IN THERE! Our plan continues to be to homeschool all the way through high school. God is so faithful! He knew that this year, while I'm so scatterbrained, I would need a boost during my regularly scheduled February Freakout. So, He ordained that there would be a Homeschooling for High School seminar in my area recently. I was blessed to be able to attend Kathleen Duncan's seminar last year. This year I returned for the new "portfolio session." Awesome, awesome, awesome. She takes what seems like an insurmountable task and makes it "doable." Thanks to the portfolio workshop I officially have my daughter's high school portfolio started. I also bought a portfolio kit for my son to start next year, as I really should've/could've started my daughter's during her 8th grade year.

If you are planning to homeschool through high school, you might want to check out her website and materials. She has lots of great links and information. And by all means, if you see that she is coming to your area (she speaks throughout the south), I highly encourage you to attend the workshop. I'll hopefully post more about it when I have more time and get our portfolio going, but I just wanted to let you know about this wonderful resource!

Monday, February 23, 2009

What do you want me to do next?"

"How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?"
~Hymn by Richard Keene, 1787, emphasis mine

"What do you want me to do next?"

That's the question. Always.

Admittedly, and probably justifiably, I've been flying by the seat of my pants this school year, more than I have in the past 10 years of home schooling. Honestly, I feel like I just can NOT get it together. Oh, it looks together, and school is happening (I think) but this has been a discombobulated year for sure. I said, "justifiably" because it is no small task to complete an international adoption and transition an older child into the family. It is joy-filled, to be sure, but not as easy to organize as in years past, with children who, though ever-changing, were familiar to me. So, I think the "unknowns" associated with my precious new son have caused me to go into "analysis paralysis" in all areas of homeschooling, even with my other two. I've been guilty on more than one occasion this year, almost weekly in fact, of staring gape-jawed at the books, unsure of what to plan or wondering how to do it a new way, rather than just, well, doing it like I know how to. Why is that??? I'm still figuring that out, but here's something that came to me last week.

It's a biblical principle I learned several years ago, in fact. One that God seemed to be telling me again in my quiet time last week. I have been praying so hard over some issues in recent weeks, child-raising issues which really do confound me, and I have been praying Jeremiah 33:3, asking God to tell me things- "great and mighty things"- that I do not know. I feel like there is SO much I don't know, and so I've been turning to the One Who does! There is certainly nothing wrong with that, and there are plenty of directives in Scripture (just like the one I mentioned) that encourage us to do exactly that. But last week, it's as if God whispered to my soul (again), "Child, why are you crying out to me for new truths when I'm simply waiting on you to act on the truths you know? Simply do what you know to do." How...simple. But what a challenge! To take what I do understand and act on it. To make my theology work its way into my reality. Then some of those "great and mighty things" that I do not know will become more clear. I'm seeing it already in a couple of situations, and I'm so thankful to the Lord for this reminder.

What does this have to do with homeschooling?

This has been, like I said, a very disorganized year for me. As a result, I haven't always had the assignment sheets ready like I usually have. Planning in Excel has still continued to be what works best for me, and now that he's in 7th grade, my sweet son can now handle having a complete week's worth of assignments on a sheet staring him in the face. So, it's still a great system, but I don't ::gasp:: always have the sheet ready. Last week, during one his "Mom, what-do-you-want-me-to-do-next" moments, for which I, in my "analysis-paralysis" mode had no idea, I heard myself say, "Just do what you know to do until I let you know the rest." Yes, I had yet to figure it all out, but he knew to read the next chapters in his assigned reading, go on to the next English lesson, write his science vocabulary cards, etc. There are some "built in" assignments in our home school that are always in place. There is always something to read, math facts to practice, vocabulary exercises to complete, outlines to study, etc. The rest of it will get filled in when mom gets it together. Now, I know theologically speaking, as it applies to my lesson above, I'm not waiting on God to "get it together" by any stretch, but the principle of doing what you know to do while you wait to find out the unknowns has been a lesson we are both learning.

So if "What do I do next???" is a question you are hearing at your house, either from your own lips or from your kids, I encourage you (and them!) to simply act on what you do know. Do the next right thing. The rest will become clearer. It always does.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Now, where were we?

Originally posted Dec. 28, 2006

So, Christmas is over. Our anniversary is over. New Year's is this weekend, and while we really don't have any big plans (okay... any plans at all...) it's the next "holiday" before school starts. Actually, I'm glad for New Year because it buys me some time to get my act together before we plow ahead in school. Today as I was working around the house in an effort to restore some sort of order after the Christmas-gift-splosion and find a place for all of the debris loot gifts, my mind was jumping ahead to next week when we will hopefully get back into some of our school routine. We've been out of it for too long! But, I must confess that the idea of "school" is one big, jumbled mess in my head right now. My plans in my computer need to be thought through (again), lots of cutting and pasting needs to be done and I need to re-evaluate what we're doing this spring. As I was musing through all of that this morning, my mind went back to a simpler time (schoolwise) back when my kids were in preschool and the early grades. At that time I was really interested in Charlotte Mason's philosophy. In particular, I loved reading Karen Andreola's book, A Charlotte Mason Companion.

A while ago I pulled Andreola's book off the shelf in the schoolroom and flipped it open to a page where I had almost highlighted all of the text. What caught my eye, and what used to be my everyday goal of my homeschool was this:

Be sure that your children each day have:
  • Something or someone to love
  • Something to do
  • Something to think about

How... simple! And how I think I've lost sight of this. As they have gotten older, and the curriculum has, of necessity, gotten more demanding, I think I've lost some of the simplicity of my approach in those early years.

In applying the above three goals to our days I want to concentrate on:

  • Something/someone to "agapao," demonstrate love to.
  • Something to actively do (not just watch or click)
  • Something to think about (or think "through")

So... as I go forward with our plans for the new year, I'm going to reread parts of Andreola's book and try to "Masonize" our studies as I did in years past. If you've never studied her approach or read her books, I encourage you to read "A Charlotte Mason Companion" or read some of the websites dedicated to her philosophy. (A great place to start is the FAQ's here. I am particularly drawn to the booklists on this site.)


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