Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Nativity Through Fine Art

I feel the need to express the utter joy I have felt over the last week.

First of all, a little history...

Right before Thanksgiving 2007, my husband experience some medical "episode". When he arrived to the hospital, he was diagnosed as having had a heart attack. (Note: He was 41 years old at the time.) The next several weeks into Christmas and beyond were difficult. Although he is a professional firefighter, he was not allowed to go back to work until he had the okay from the doctor. We did continue to get his base pay, but without overtime and mounting medical bills, things were extremely tight. God did take care of us through that uncertain time and all of our needs were provided for plus some.

Since money was tight and I felt helpless, God moved me to teach a class out of my home to homeschoolers during the last full week before Christmas. Even though I charged a fee for the class, it was full before I knew it. The class was based on Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol. It seemed to be a blessing in so many ways - I made a little money, my kids got to see their friends, we got "school" in even though it was not like "school" at all, moms could leave their kids with me while they went and finished up some holiday errands, etc., etc. I knew right away that I wanted to do this again a year later.

This year, the name of the class was "The Nativity Through Fine Art". I wrote the "curriculum" myself and as I began to write the plans for the week, I immediately felt such peace. I loved pouring over the pictures trying to decide which to use. There are so many good pieces from which to choose.

Back to my joy.

Even though the class was called "The Nativity Through Fine Art", the Bible was the base for the class. We would read from Luke, Matthew, Isaiah and Micah beginning from the Annunciation to Zechariah and we finished with the flight to Egypt.
Typically, we would read a Bible passage, look at a picture, discuss the picture, the students would then write their thoughts and observations. Sometimes, the Bible passage would be copywork and when appropriate, we watched excerpts from The Nativity Story.

As a former public school teacher, this class was a joy because the children were engaged in learning. When they showed up to my house, they would ask "How many pictures do we get to look at today?" I would also hear comments like, "I liked the last picture better than this one" which indicates to me that they are interested and thinking about what is being presented to them. They are forming opinions about the art. Through the discussions, the children would come up with ideas that I hadn't thought of and they all seemed eager to share what each picture was saying to them.

Although I didn't intend for it to happen, we studied quite a few paintings by Sandro Botticelli. We did not study all the Botticelli pictures at the same time. On the third Botticelli (The Mystic Nativity), one of the girls in the class piped up and said, "Hey, look at how Mary is dressed here. It's the same as The Annunciation and The Magnificat! Her sleeves look exactly the same!" That comment was exciting because it showed me that she is starting to recognize Botticelli's style.

Each day, as we met for the class, I felt an overwhelming joy and contentment with what God was doing. This class was a process for me and through this process, I felt God drawing me in. There really is no greater joy.

Here are the Botticelli pictures I mentioned. Do you see how the sleeves are the same?

The Annunciation

The Magnificat

Mystic Nativity (detail)

P.S. If you look at the Christmas cards you are getting in the mail this year, you may find a Botticelli on the postage stamp.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


What a wonderful time of year to talk about Art and Music Appreciation!
Last night we discussed Chapters 25 and 26 in Karen Andreola's book A Charlotte Mason Companion.

In Chapter 25 she talks about picture study. Picture study is a wonderful way to expose our children to great paintings and it really doesn't take too long. It can take as little as 10 minutes once a week or every other week.

Resources can be found on the internet (see the end of this post), at the library, in the bargain section of your local bookstore (big coffee-table books are wonderful) and at after-Christmas sales. You should be able to find calendars and Christmas cards on sale after the holidays are over. Also, be sure to check any Christmas cards you recieve. Even if the picture is not done by a famous artist, it could still be used for a picture study.

How to do it?

Give the child a picture face down. Then have him turn it over to look at it for 1 or 2 minutes. Don't talk to him during this time. Just let the artist speak to him. After the time is up, have him turn the picture back over and tell you what was in the picture. Can the child describe the picture? Was there anything that stood out to him? (This is a type of narration and will help the child to learn the habit of attention.)

At this point, you can do a couple of things.

1. You can discuss the picture. If you have done some research, you can tell the child about any symbolism that may be in the picture. Or you can briefly (and I emphasize "briefly" so you don't loose the child's attention) talk about the artist himself. You need not go into a lot of detail about the artist at the younger ages. As the child approaches the teen years, then he can learn about the lives of the artists.

2. Give the child a 4X6 copy of the picture and let him write about the picture on a notebooking page. He can write about a detail that stood out to him or the way the artist painted the picture - anything that helps the child to connect with the piece. Do not let the child just write, "this is an interesting picture" or "I like this picture very much." If they write that, ask them to answer the question "Why?" This notebooking page is perfect for your end of the year portfolio.

Once you have finished with this, be sure to display the picture somewhere in your house (We put ours on the refrigerator) so the child can see the picture again and again. Be sure it is at the child's eye level.

The site with the free notebooking pages can be found here: Notebookingpages. com
Just click on the link for Free Resources and you will find all sorts of pages for your porfolios.

Art websites that I recommend include (but are not limited to)
Web Gallery of Art
Biblical Art on the WWW
Art and the Bible
National Gallery of Art for Kids
National Galler of Art
National Gallery of Art Loan Program

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

When Learning Spills Over into Play

In Karen Andreola's book A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning, Chapter Four tells us that Education is a Science of Relations. I have always said that we make connections with what we already know.

I get so excited when I see my kids making connections. During the month of November, I have been reading Pilgrim Stories by Margaret Pumphrey to them. All the while, they are building their Thanksgiving notebooks. Yesterday, I walked past the living room where my daughters were playing with a friend of theirs. Their friend was wrapped up tight in a blanket and I asked what they were doing. They said they were pretending it was the Pilgrims' first winter at Plymouth and the friend was pretending to be Priscilla Mullins and dd10 was pretending to be Mistress Brewster. Priscilla was sick and Mistress Brewster trying to bring her back to health. DD11 was pretending to be Squanto and was showing them how to grow food.
Inside my brain I did a loud "WOOHOO!!!!!" because this form of play shows me that they got something out of what I read to them. They made a connection! This also tells me that they will remember what we learned about Thanksgiving for a long, long time. They didn't learn anything for a test only to forget it right away.
Here are a couple of pictures.

We are not so sure that Squanto had eggs to bring, but in our version, dd11 went to our chicken coupe in our back yard and brought eggs to the ailing pilgrims.

Mistress Brewster also took care of sick babies at our Plymouth hospital.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Christmas Carol class and notebook

Every December is filled with one thing after another. Sometimes it can get busy and lessons sometimes fall to the wayside. Last year, I had the thought to teach a class for homeschoolers from my home that last full week before Christmas. The class was based on Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol. It was nice, because it kept me "on track" but was within the spirit of the season. My kids got to spend some time with friends and their parents had the chance to do some things they needed to do without worrying about the lessons falling to the wayside.

A Christmas Carol was a good book to study. It is written in 5 staves (chapters) and we covered one stave a day. Each day at the end of reading, writing, creating notebook pages, etc, we would watch a different version of the movie. At the end of the week, the kids were to critique the movies and write about their favorite. The versions included a 1935 version starring Sir Cedric Hardwick I found at Target for $1, a Mickey Mouse version, the Muppets version, and the version with George C. Scott.

Each day, the kids would write a narration of the stave we were focusing on for the day. Then we would do different activities. One day, they had to sculpt a character from the story out of clay. That was great.
On the last day, each child had a notebook that he/she could take home and share with relatives over the holidays. In the back of the notebook, I added a couple of blank pages so that they could get signatures and comments of those with whom they shared their lapbooks.

The following pictures are from dd10's complete notebook. I am only posting the original pages I came up with. There are other pages in the book that I purchased online. The notebook has about 22 pages (counting fronts and backs its 44 pages).
This is the cover she designed herself.

Inside the front cover.
On index cards, we wrote significant events in Charles Dickens' life. We then put the cards in this pocket.

A watercolor painting of Jacob Marley's ghost painted on appropriate paper and cut out and placed in the notebook.

A trifold of dd10's Christmas 5 years ago, Christmas present, and Christmas in 10 years from now. Notice my little princess thinks she'll be driving a pink car in 10 years.
A written narration of "Want" and "Ignorance" along with an illustration of each tucked inside the "rounded triangle petal book" found at Homeschool Share .
Movie review page. They chose which was their favorite version and gave reasons why.
My sis-in-law actually took us to see a performance on stage. These are photographs and a ticket stub from the performance.
Reader's Signature Page
"Each time you share this notebook with others, have them sign and comment on your notebook on these pages."
Whenever a child shares his/her notebook, it reinforces what was learned and provides opportunity for oral narration. It can be fun for them to try to get those last couple of pages filled with signatures.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Trampolines, PE and Music

Over the summer I found a little trampoline at Goodwill for $5. I have been wanting one for a while to keep indoors for those long winter months of limited physical activity. In the last week or so, it's been hard to get outside and my kids discovered the trampoline. My 4 year old son likes to jump while shouting out is ABC's. The older girls shout out the Greek alphabet. They are trying to invent games that involve bouncing on the trampoline (kind of like an obstacle course in our basement).

My favorite has to be when they get on it and sing their favorite songs. Today, ds4 was singing "Big House" by Audio Adrenaline and "Yo Ho Hero" by the Newsboys. Here are a couple of pictures of ds4 with dd10 getting in on the action.

This was $5 well spent.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dirtbikes and Habit Training

One of the things I love about my husband is that he works very hard to provide for us. He works really hard. He is a professional firefighter and works 24 hour shifts. During his shift, he may get a couple of hours of sleep and be out at all hours of the night helping people. While we are snug in our beds, he is out there taking verbal abuse from those experiencing drug overdoses, those who made a bad decision while driving or from those who have been in pain for the last 12 hours and thought that 3am is a good time to call for help.
He also sees stuff that the rest of us couldn't even imagine. I realize he censors what he tells me and that is all bad enough.
All of that said, he loves his job. He gets off at 7am and drives about 1.5 hours to get home.

I try really hard to convey to the children that daddy deserves to come home to a house that is straightened up. He works hard and the least we can do is make sure he has a clear path to the bed so he can rest when he gets here.

Somehow, last night, I missed our dirt bike that was sitting out on our sidewalk. The kids had it out yesterday and failed to put it away. They also failed to pick the helmets up out of the yard. This morning he came home and found our dirtbike out on the sidewalk. That made him really angry.

I feel that I talk until I am blue in the face and the children just don't seem to be listening. I think the problem is the lack of consequences for bad habits. So this morning, the dirt bike was the straw that broke the camel's back.

When I first thought of grounding them, I thought that would be the best thing to do. Then I remembered all the stuff on our calendar for the next two days and started to reconsider. Here is another great thing about my husband, he helped me to see that they may just have to miss these things this time.

Although I am following through with this grounding for two days, my heart is breaking because of what they will miss. At the same time, I'm thinking, "Woohoo! I don't have to drive anywhere today!"
Is that wrong?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My Camera

A little mommy aggravation here.

Yes, I'm going to vent.

My camera had been missing for days. I looked high and low for it and even asked the kids if they had used it for anything. Of course the little angels knew nothing of the whereabouts of my camera. My 2nd daughter's birthday was Tuesday and that morning, I was looking feverishly for it all up until the moment we walked out the door for her party.

That evening, I started looking for it again. Dh got irritated that I couldn't find it ( I guess I complained a little about the camera being gone.)
Well, he found it. Guess where.

It was in the chicken coupe out back buried in straw.
Here are the last pictures taken on it.

When I was looking for the camera, I specifically asked the children if they took pictures of the chickens and they insisted that they hadn't. Hmmmmmm.
So my conclusion is that while we were gone, those chicken broke into the house, took the camera and just had the time of their lives taking pictures of each other out there. When they heard us come home, they quickly buried the camera in the straw and said they'd blame the kids. Pretty amazing considering they don't have opposable thumbs.
Grrrrrrr. Crazy chickens.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mount St. Mary's Grotto and mosaics

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been preparing for a Charlotte Mason Discussion Group that I will be hosting at my home. It's good to read back through CM books and notes I've taken previously and websites, etc. It reminds me of where I should be in educating my children. Last Friday I had the thought that we needed to take a field trip. We are studying Ancient Rome and I kept trying to think of a way to get mosaics in. I have a hard time with the construction paper cut in squares glued onto other construction paper. I guess it gets the idea across of making a picture with little squares.

In the back of my mind, I remembered that Mount St. Mary's University in Emmittsburg, Maryland has mosaics in their Grotto of Lourdes. So last Friday, I checked the weather for Monday - Perfect! - and we were off on Monday morning. It's only about a 30 minute drive from my house, but well worth it with no admission fees for the grotto.

We took our lunches and picniced at the Grotto. That part was so nice that, after an hour, we were still sitting there eating and chatting. I had to force the children and myself to get up so we could go see the rest of the Grotto.

It was so beautiful. We were able to stop at the different mosaics and the children narrated the bible story that was depicted.

Here are some pictures from our day.

This is DS4, exploring a seed pod that had fallen from a tree. This is nature study at it's finest.

The mosaics:

It was tricky to get photos of the mosaics because there was plexiglass over all of them. I was surprised at how interested the kids were in them. They got up close and studied the individual tiles. Also, these pictures don't do the mosaics justice.

This mosaic stands about 10 feet tall.

Risen Jesus

Dd9 next to the Baptism of Jesus

Gabriel visiting Mary

Ds4 looking at the Nativity

This is a spring in the Grotto. The verse on the stone says:

"Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink......rivers of living water will flow from within him." John 7:37-38

This is a beautiful field trip and I would recommend it to anyone. We were able to cover art, nature study (science) and narration (languagle arts- oral language).

Monday, October 6, 2008

Niagara Falls

Isn't it amazing how when you return from a vacation, even if the vacation was only a couple of days, that it takes time to "recover" from it? We went to Niagara Falls, Canada two weeks ago for four days and I feel like our household is just now getting back to "normal". Weird.
Our vacation was great. It was sunny and 70 degrees the entire time. We stayed at Embassy Suites that overlooks the falls. The price of the hotel was a little more that what we might normally pay, but we got so much. We stayed in a suite that had a living room area, a small area with a microwave and refrigerator and a bedroom. With 3 children, that was nice because the oldest slept on the pull out sofa in the living room. Plenty of room for everyone.

The hotel included a breakfast buffet that was out of this world. There were omelet chefs and you could get eggs, sausage, bacon, pancakes, fresh fruit, yogurt, etc, etc. We took the kids to eat breakfast around 10 or 10:30 and that lasted through lunch. For dinner we went to a local grocery store and got frozen dinners and stuff for salads and sandwiches and sat in our room looking at the falls while we ate. Since we did that, we didn't feel the need to go up in the Skylon Tower and have dinner. That was $35 a person!

Yes, we did go on the Maid of the Mist. "Maid of the Mist" sounds so delicate, but it was quite the adventure. Despite the perfect weather, when we got to the base of the falls, the boat rocked and we were pelted with rain. My 4 year old son will tell you right out that he hated that ride. The rest of us loved it. My daughters brought home their blue ponchos for souvenirs.

We also got to see a rainbow on the falls every day.

We had plenty of opportunity to stand and look at the falls and just marvel at the enormity of it all. We were reminded of God's power every time we stood there and heard the thundering of the water pouring over the edge to the depths below. In his own words, my 4 year old son explained to the rest of us that God spoke the falls into being because that's all God has to do if He wants to make something.
I could go on rambling about this trip. It was one of the best vacations of my life and it was one of those where I didn't want to leave. So I'll just add a few more pictures here and stop typing.
Hubby got a picture of me doing what I always do - taking pictures.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Children's Literature

One of my favorite classes in college was Children's Literature. The professor would actually read excerpts of good children's literature to us. I was always transformed back to being a little girl while I was listening to her read. It's a shame, but for the life of me I can't remember the professor's name although she was my favorite teacher in college. She exposed me to many children's books that I had not previously ever heard of and she taught me about what reading should be for elementary aged children - that it should be an enjoyable experience and not one of drudgery. She told us of a time when she taught in public schools and the school system she worked for bought new basal readers. She totally disagreed with the use of basal readers and didn't want to use them. The administration in her school told her that they spent a lot of money on these books and she must use them. Her solution was beautiful. She told the kids to take the basal readers out of their desks. Then she told them to stand up, place the books on their seats and sit down. She looked at her administrator and said, "There, now we are using the books."

Charlotte Mason advocates using whole, living books. Basal readers take one tiny excerpt from a book and ask a ton of questions at the end of the reading to "check for comprehension". This robs the child of the opportunity to have a relationship with the characters or to ruminate on what was read. Instead of asking a lot of quiz-like questions, CM suggests to have the child narrate to check for comprehension. When you ask questions, you are checking to see if the child caught what the teacher wants the child to get. Through narration, you find out so much more about what the child "comprehended" from the reading. Narration also opens the doors for further discussion. Can you see how this helps the literature to stick with the child so much longer? If you ask a bunch of specific questions, the child thinks, "Oh thank goodness that's over with. Now I can get on with my life." There is a risk that the child won't retain what was read.

To start narration, read a paragraph (or a chapter) and ask the child to tell the story back to you in his own words. Sometimes, I will take a history reading and ask my 11 year old to tell the story to her 4 year old brother. That works beautifully. It may be difficult at first, but after your kids get the hang of it, it can be a lot of fun.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Roman Roads

A special project we did today involved making a Roman road. The Romans built roads over 2000 years ago that are still in existance today. I find that completely amazing. Compare that with the roads we drive on today in America.

As we work through the Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer, we supplement with activities from other resources. Today we used an idea from Ancient Rome! Exploring the Culture, People & Ideas of this Powerful Empire. We first read about the roads the Romans built and then we made models. All 3 of my kids enjoyed this project - from the 11 year old to the 4 year old. Here are some pictures.

I thought the Playmobile Roman soldier was a nice final touch.
That's grass seed on the sides of the road, so the kids will be able to water it and watch the grass grow, too. My 9 year old asked if she could cut her grass when it got tall enough. The 11 year old wanted to know if she gets paid to cut her grass (like when she cuts the neighbor's yard.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hurricane Study

For anyone studying hurricanes this season, here is a very useful website that includes tracking maps you can print out and use.
Accuweather. com

Depending on which direction you go, the study of hurricanes can cover many subject areas in your portfolios. It doesn't have to be through a purchased unit study either. The internet and your local library are great resources to find the following information.

Geography - Tracking maps: find out in what parts of the world hurricanes form
History - Study the impact of some major hurricanes from the past and how areas recovered
Safety Ed - What people should do in the event a hurricane is headed their way; What the flags for tropical storms and hurricanes look like.
Civics - Study ways people volunteer in a hurricane aftermath. Perhaps find one volunteer or a group of volunteers and find out what they do in a day.
Reading - Check the daily paper for stories on the current hurricanes.

Don't feel like you have the time to do the research? Go to the library, find books on hurricanes and bring them home. Give your child a blank notebook with the above questions and let him go to it. You might need to set a time limit - tell him this needs to be done by the end of the week. You might be surprised at what he will produce.

I'm sure there are more subjects to be covered, please post them in my comments because I would love to hear your ideas.

NOTE: All of the above subjects were chosen based on Pennsylvania homeschool law.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Credit Suisse Bulletin

I didn't want to tell anyone about this until I actually read the article. I wanted to be sure that the article wasn't bashing homeschoolers.
Last January, I received a phone call from a reporter in New York. He explained who he was and said that the periodical that he writes for (a Swiss financial journal) is doing an education issue and he wanted to write a story on homeschooling. We set up a time for him to come and interview my family and me. He was a wonderful person. When he realized that we were Steelers fans, he told us about his interview he did with Ben Roethlisberger! I thought that was really cool.
Any time I get the opportunity, I try very hard to choose the right words when talking about homeschooling. I had a couple of weeks to prepare for this interview. In the end, it was a lot of fun. He interviewed 3 other families for this article and I think the facts are presented well and that homeschooling is put in a good light with the article.

Here is the link to the article:
Credit Suisse Bulletin Feb 2008

One of my favorite parts of the article is where my husband talks about the disadvantages of homeschooling.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Nineteen Eighty What????

My dearest friend told me recently about trying on one of her dresses from high school and it still fits her!!! As she described the dress to me, I could clearly see it. I think we must have gone to the prom the same year. Even though I poked fun at her at a homeschool planning meeting, it was nostalgic to think of and I hope one day to get a chance to see her dress.

In the meantime, I reminisce about the 80's with all the things I experienced as a teen - growing up afraid of the Russians, seeing Mount St. Helen's explode, Ronald Reagan being shot, the space shuttle going up for the first time, big hair, MTV, etc., etc. What a plethora of history I have seen in my own lifetime that can be shared with my children and future generations. All of us have stories of where we were on important days in history. Write them down. Teaching history should come from primary sources. If you write down your personal experiences, you are creating a primary source! It's inexpensive and a wonderful way to liven up your history curriculum.

Speaking of the 80's - here is a picture of me in 1986 at the age of 17. The first thing my girls said when they saw the picture was that my hair looked the same as those ladies in the Walk Like an Egyptian video. (Yes, I pulled that video up on the internet when we studied ancient Egypt. It was fun dancing around the kitchen to that tune and walking like an Egyptian.)

My mom, me and my brother

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Art appreciation and nudity

Either next week or the following week, we will start taking a close look at art masterpieces. Over a period of 2 or 3 months, we will focus on one artist and look at his or her works. As anyone who has visited an art museum knows, nudity comes along with the territory of art appreciation sometimes.
Over the years, I have not covered the nudity in order for my girls to see the whole picture. I've heard of some moms putting a post-it note over the parts they didn't want their kids to see and I feel that takes away from the art and puts too much emphasis on the nudity. I do try to find pictures that don't contain nudity, but sometimes (as in Michelangelo's "David") it's unavoidable. It's a piece of art that identifies very clearly with the artist and something would be lost if it were covered or not even looked at.
After we have studied a piece of art, my girls will often cut out a pair of shorts (or other piece of clothing) from construction paper and cover the parts they don't want to see. The following is a refrigerator magnet I purchased when we studied Michelangelo.

Forunately for us, we live in the 21st century and have the internet. Ambleside Online is a wonderful resource which provides a schedule and pictures for study. Some have a little nudity, but AO offers a detail of such pictures that doesn't have nudity and can be used as an alternate.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Playground Day

Our homeschool group has playground days every summer - one each month in June, July and August. There are no planned activities. The kids just play and the moms get a chance to sit around and talk. Some families bring bag lunches. There is a pond and stream that the older kids love to explore. Today was our last playground day of the summer. I absolutely love summer (even those hot and humid days) and it makes me a little sad that summer is coming to a close already.

While at the playground, I was taken by surprise that my 4 year old son had no qualms about chasing down a toad and catching it. I guess that's what it means to be "all boy". He desperately wanted to hang on to it - tightly! We finally talked him into giving it to his 11 year old sister. As much of a tomboy as she is, she didn't handle it with the ease that this guy did.

Ahhh childhood. Embrace it!!! It's so temporary.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Chores and Money Management

Okay, spawned by a discussion I had this afternoon with some ladies, I am asking this question to a wider group to get more feedback.

Up until now, I have followed Kevin Leman's idea on giving kids an allowance. Each week they get an allowance in which the dollar amount is the same as their age. (e.g. an 8 year old gets $8). Out of that comes savings and tithing. The rest is for them to spend.

My sis in law says that giving a set allowance is "Mommy Welfare" because no matter how much they work, they still get the same amount. She has been telling me about this program by David Ramsey called Financial Peace, Jr (they have a homeschool curriculum). It is where the kids get paid by the chore. The more work they do, the more money they earn. She sent it to me last week and we are trying to implement it in our home. My problem with this method is that the kids won't do anything around the house if they aren't paid. (I can assure you that issue is addressed with the kids with this program. According to this program, the children still have to do chores that they are not paid for because they must contribute to the household. The whole point of the program is to teach children how to manage their money and not go into debt.) When I mentioned it to a group of moms this afternoon, I felt that this method is looked down upon and it's making me question what to do.

Also in the last week, I received my copy of Managers of their Homes and Managers of their Chores by Teri Maxwell. (Excellent reading!)

What I want to know is what others are doing so far as teaching their children financial responsibility in this time in our country of debtful living.

Furthermore, I would like to know what systems others are using to be sure that all the children in the house are contributing as far as keeping the house running.

Is there a way to get the kids to do their chores without the monetary gain, and yet have them earn money so they can learn to manage it?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hanover Dutch Festival

The last Saturday of July is always the Hanover Dutch Festival. There are lots of food vendors, craft vendors, etc. This particular festival had a German flair to it. The area was originally settled by German immigrants. During the festival you can listen to a German band and see german dancers. Of course we enjoy doing all of this and again, I count it as school in my mind, but don't tell the children. They just think they are having fun.

We are able to count the music and dancing as music appreciation and social studies (world cultures). Any time I go to one of these festivals, my husband teases me because I like to get italian sausage and funnel cakes. He tells me the festival is an excuse to indulge in these treats. So now, I'm trying to figure out a way to include the funnel cakes and italian sausages in our portfolio. ;-)

This year, as part of the festival, I learned that there were many facilities in the area giving free tours. Yesterday we went to the firehouse that houses a museum and we went to the post office. While we were at the fire house, the newspaper arrived and today we are in the paper. I'm not sure how long this link will be any good, but I'll post it anyway because the paper quoted me. I tried to choose my words very carefully and I feel they didn't misrepresent anything I said.

We truly did enjoy the tour. My husband is a professional firefighter and it was neat to see some of the antique stuff and how it worked.

Monday, July 21, 2008


I don't know about you, but our summers are filled with activity. This year, we started homeschooling July 1 and it's been great. I did this for a couple of reasons.
1. It's hot and it's nice to stay in the AC
2. There are lots of free summer activities in our area (see below)
3. We started last year in Sept and had to go all the way to the middle of May. We don't want to repeat that.
4. We want a long Christmas break
5. I want to be finished by May 1 so I can completely focus on evaluations.

So , back to the topic of summer...
We started July 1. There are many activities going on this summer that I am incorporating into our homeschool.
1. My kids are taking a class at the local state park on Thursdays in July. The class is free and all about birds that you can find locally. The kids are loving it and seem to be getting a great deal from it.
2. VBS!!! They do get a lot out of VBS. For our homeschool, this covers music and art and sometimes Bible history.
3. Harp lessons - Our local state park is offering free autoharp lessons on Wednesday afternoons.
4. Free movies - We have been reading and doing activities with Charlotte's Web by E.B.White and the movie is free this week at a local theater.
5. Library Summer Reading Program - The library system in the neighboring county is offering an awesome summer reading program. They have all sorts of special programs from health and nutrition to sign language to astronomy classes and so on.
6. Fourth of July in Gettysburg - see previous post on this one.

Life is learning. These are the things my kids will remember much better than anything I can "teach" them from a textbook. Even after the summer is over, I will continue to search for opportunities such as these.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A word about the law and what to turn in to the school district

Call me a paranoid, right-wing, nut job, but when the law doesn't require something from me, I don't typically volunteer it. When I buy gasoline, the law doesn't require that I produce a driver's license to prove I can drive, so I wouldn't dream of volunteering to show it. Nor would I show it if the gas station attendant came out and asked for it, because it's not required by the law. I am within legal parameters to buy gas without proving that I can drive.

I have private tutored my children for the last several years without incident.
This year, I am taking two students from different families that I will private tutor in my home. Despite the fact that I have submitted all that the law requires (copy of teaching certificate, background check, etc), their school districts of residence have both asked me for a yearly letter in the spring stating that I will continue private tutoring them.

Today I called the one school district and asked about this "requirement" . She told me that the reason I need to send the letter is so that she can be sure the children are being educated. I asked if they require the same from students who attend private schools. I was told that they do not. I asked, "then how do you know those kids are bieng educated?" Her reply was - "We don't". She asked why it was such a big deal to write a letter when all the other private tutors in her district send in the annual letter. I explained that when school district requries something of everyone that is not the law, and everyone complies, then the school district will start asking for a little more and a little more, and it doesn't stop.

Home School Legal Defense sent a letter to my home district (since this is one of the districts asking for this letter) that states:"...there is no provision that the private tutor submit the required documentation or any related notice to the local public school superintendent on an annual basis."

If you are homeschooling under the Private Tutoring Provision of the Pa School Code, I beg you to please not hand in anything that is not required by the law. It raises the bar on what the schools will ask for.

Even if you are not homeschooling under the Private Tutoring Provision, be sure you know the homeschool law inside and out. As an evaluator, I am aware that most of the school districts in the area "require" you to submit more than what the law requires and it's maddening. If you don't submit what the law doesn't require, there is nothing they can do to you. Period.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July - Gettysburg style

The 4th of July in Gettysburg is an event that lasts 3 or 4 days (at least). Typically, we stay home away from all the crowds and tourists. In the evening, we usually trek over to Hanover, Pa (about 7 miles away from our house) to see fireworks. This year, the weather forecast is calling for rain, so I figured fireworks were not a possiblity this year.

Instead, we decided to go to Gettysburg to see what we would find.

Here is what we found:

A surgeon's tent where he showed us the bone saw and a metatarsal knife. I actually started getting light headed so I had to quit listening. I felt I couldn't leave because the kids were fascinated. There was also a bowl of (fake) hands and feet sitting on the ground next to this table.

A woman making lace by hand that dd9 had to get her picture with. Notice that dd had to dress according to this occasion, but I would be shocked if she didn't.

The Lincoln Train Museum where we took a virtual train ride with Abraham Lincoln.

The Rupp House where we learned about how a woman hid with her six children in the basement during the battle. Then she decided to cross town with her children and her valuable possessions through enemy territory to a safer place. (I have a great respect for this woman considering I have a hard enough time going to the grocery store with 3 children.)

This gentleman at the Rupp House is showing us a gun used during the time.

At one point, ds4 spotted what we call a "real-life army guy". This was an active serviceman in his fatigues. Ds kept staring and the soldier waved to him. I turned and shook his hand and thanked him for his service to our country. I explained that our family appreciates the freedoms we have and realize that it's because of his service that we have them. He actually started to tear up. He took the American flag off his uniform and gave it to my son. (Note: I thank those guys every chance I get. Toby Keith's song Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue runs through my head when I see them. Especially the part where he says "...There's a lot of men dead so we can sleep in peace at night when we lay down our heads")

I didn't tell my children that any of this was school.

I purchased paper doll books for all three kids and it's neat to see them so interested. Dd9, my reluctant reader, keeps reading and "teaching" me all about 19th century clothing.

On the way home, we stopped by a homeschool family owned fruit stand/pottery store and purchased corn on the cob for our 4th of July "feast".

Now we are home and it's raining. The girls are cutting out paper dolls and ds4 is playing with his plastic Civil War soldiers that he got today. He has informed me many times that his soldiers have "saved the day".

It's been a good homeschool day.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

No Textbooks!?!?!?

A little over a year ago, a friend was telling me that her daughters were having a hard time with history. "They just don't seem to retain anything," she explained. Then she asked, "What history textbook do you use?" I stopped and thought for a moment. It was a quick moment. However, in that moment, all the resources I use reeled through my head. I then answered, "None." She actually looked shocked. "None!?" I went on to explain that we use the library as our primary resource for history and science. Then the next question came, "How do you know you aren't missing anything?" I answered with another question, "How much do you remember from your textbooks in school? Do you remember how dry and boring they were?" Then I asked, "Do you remember any books you read as a kid?" Of course she did.
I do evaluations for homeschoolers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Every year, I have a new homeschooler who feels they didn't cover art or music. I love talking with them and helping them to remember shows or other experiences that would be considered art and music (or whatever other subject they think they missed). I also get phone calls from new homeschool moms who are panicing and asking me which curriculum (or workbook) they should have their preschooler or kindergartener in. My reply is always, "None." With children that age, you should take out the play dough or the building blocks and let them play. Take them on walks and let them explore. Talk to them about all that you do and encourage them to talk to you. That is how they will learn best.
Not all learning comes from a text book. As a matter of fact, most learning doesn't come from textbooks. Life is learning.
This morning, I was sent this link for 100+ Resources for Teaching Without Textbooks. It has so many good resources.
As a side note: I do use textbooks for Math. Our family uses the Math U See materials. That only takes 15 to 20 minutes a day and it works well for us. Along with this, I also give my kids some real life experiences with math at as young an age as possible. They include (but are not limited to):
  • Cooking using recipes. Sometimes we double or half a recipe and they have to do the math.
  • When we go to the bank, they are not allowed a lollipop unless they have a deposit. They also have to fill out their own deposit slips.
  • When at the store, I'll ask them to tell me how much change I should get back. Then I have them count it to make sure it is correct.

These are just a few ideas and as I read others' blogs, I get so many more.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Reality Check

How many times have we gone to a homeschool function and felt that "I am so glad that this event isn't at my house." We look around and feel that everyone else has it so together.

How many times have you told someone you homeschool and they say "Oh, I could never do that. I don't have the (patience, organization, discipline, etc., etc.)" I try not to put up a facade, although I often feel that others don't really care about my daily "hardships" so I don't burden them with it. I do have people over to my house and they get to witness the disaster area first hand. When others say to me "You are so organized". My rebuttle is "Have you seen the condition of my house lately?" So I try to convey that I am no June Cleaver.

Okay, I like to post pictures on my blog. So just to prove that I don't have it all together here is a current picture of my kitchen / dining area. This needs to be cleaned up. So what do I do? I ignore it while I make popcorn and blog. Now don't get me wrong, I will get to it.

This picture is of what the FLY-lady would call a hot spot. It is ALWAYS blazing!

My popcorn. I make it on the stove. The microwave stuff tastes fake after living on this stuff.

On the upside, I am in the proccess of building habits. I've learned that this doesn't happen over night. So I am starting with routines in the morning and at bedtime. I feel those are the easiest times to start a routine. If a bedtime routine is in place, it's easier to instill a morning routine. Once the routines are established, the habits follow closely behind. Honestly, it wears me out just to think about it.

So if I have disappointed anyone by confessing my shortcomings, I'm truly sorry. So far as having it together, I didn't even really mention how I talk to my kids when I am stressed out over (finances, closest relative living 4 hours away, the value of our home, etc., etc.). Maybe that will be another post.