Sunday, January 31, 2010

How Do I Know What To Teach?

One question we all seem to ask (or at least wonder about) when we are thinking about homeschooling or we meet someone who does for the first time: how do you know what to teach?  For me, it was "How will i know what to teach?" I believe this to be a valid question because it stems from genuine curiosity and it is mixed with a touch of doubt, generally self-doubt, so it is a fair concern.

Traditional Answer: buy a reputable curriculum and follow it to the letter.  As you get the "swing" of things, you will be able to supplement or skip pieces.  This is a valid answer, but it didn't fit our style around here, so....

Less Common Response: learn about whatever the kids are interested in!  What could be more fun than learning everything from the world around you rather than textbooks!?!  Also a valid answer, but it was a bit too loose for me - i am still struggling with my self-doubt too much to lean too heavily on unschooling (as this method is often called).

Fence Straddling Answer (and my personal favorite): pick a few things that are done well to keep the basics, like math and reading, and discover the rest as you (or your children!) desire.  This way embraces all that wonderful curricula out there in Homeschool Land written by wise, intelligent, helpful people with far too much time on their hands, but it also allows for the freedom of focusing on things you are interested in, like bugs or clouds or Native Americans or - you get the idea.  For me, it's the perfect way to homeschool!

Not to mention, what works for us this week may not work for us next week - our needs are not finite, and they require us to adjust every so often.  I sometimes panic when i discover someone else's child is doing something more advanced than mine, but i quickly calm down again when i remind myself that i am aiming for a well-rounded education, not just a revolving set of facts or a checklist at the end of each year.

I feel the need to point out that the traditional school teachers are given goals/checklists before they ever meet their students, and whether or not their students reach those goals is the measure of their teaching.  While that is a lot of stress for the teacher, imagine how the kids feel who are being force-fed information that they may not understand or droned at with material they have already mastered.  The beauty of homeschooling is that i can teach only what my kids don't already know, and i can slow things down when someone needs me to do so.

So the shorter answer to the question "How Do I Know What To Teach?" for me would have to be: i don't.  I rely on some basics, like math and reading, to help keep us on track, and we fill in with whatever we feel like learning about (like pink flamingos or farm animals or self-checkout lanes or dog obedience training or building hay bale towers or...).  But, seriously, it isn't about having all the answers - it is about the journey.

Friday, January 29, 2010

MathScore (TOS Crew Review)

We have been receiving quite a bit of math products here in the TOS Crew, and my kids are getting a bit weary of me "trying something new" every month, so consider yourself warned about this review not being totally about the product. {wink}

When we received an online subscription to MathScore, I didn't know what to expect. We have run the gamut in math products lately, and I no longer have any idea what one company might have done differently from another (and WHO KNEW there were so many ways to get kids to "do math"?!?!). Well, unfortunately for my kids, MathScore was not a hit. They really didn't give it much of a chance, but I can certainly see their points:

~ timed sessions (all timed sessions stress out my children, especially my oldest, and we have a very relaxed homeschooling environment to support this)
~ drills (although drills are useful, and some parents find them necessary, we are not really thrilled with the idea of drills in our homeschool)
~ black and white, straightforward (which isn't always bad, but when math is boring for my kids, they don't get much out of it - they just try to tolerate it long enough to get past it)

You can sign up for a 2-week FREE TRIAL on their website, though, so don't take my word for this program - check it out for yourself! Your kids may LOVE it!

To see what my fellow Crew Members thought of MathScore, click here.

*Disclaimer: I was given temporary access to MathScore at no cost for the purposes of reviewing their program. No compensation was provided for this review.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wednesday Blahs

So, it is Wednesday.  I am halfway through the week, still have so much to do, and i am running out of steam!  On top of the Wednesday Blahs, I decided to give into my craving for Doritos and i am REGRETTING IT. {ergh}

Among the other great choices i made today:

~ washed and dried 2 loads of laundry (you're thinking "Way to go!" but actually, that just means i have to put all those stupid clean clothes away... sigh)
~ asked my son to complete a competency exam in math (uh-huh, should've been a good thing, but Alas! He couldn't be bothered to take it seriously, so we'll keep plugging 1st grade math... sigh)
~ attempted to add a sidebar item to my blog with copied html code, which resulted in complete abandonment of the idea... at least for today.... sigh
~ investigated the situation when a neighbor took it upon herself to yell at my child... which just made us both feel bad because we were both being overly dramatic cautious... sigh

Plus, my dog regurgitated his breakfast and has been vomiting ever since, and keeps barking at what i can only presume are ghosts shadows since no one else sees anything.  AND i drank decaf for my afternoon coffee instead of caff and i am drooping....

Can i go back to bed?

Christian Keyboarding (TOS Crew Review)

As a member of the 2009-2010 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I received en electronic copy of Keyboarding for the Christian School: Elementary Version (a.k.a. Christian Keyboarding) to use and review. At first, I wondered if it was another piano program, but I was wrong. Christian Keyboarding is a typing program! Wow! What a concept: a typing program that includes Bible verses and references.

So, after looking it over, I printed off only the first few lessons because I was sure that alone was going to be a nightmare to get through. I'll tell you why, and then I'll tell you whether the program met my expectations. My initial reaction to Christian Keyboarding was that it was going to be boring. It looked, at first glance, like a high school typing course: straight forward, efficient, but dry. My children are 10 and 7 years of age... the three-year-old doesn't count for this curriculum yet. :-> Anyway, my children have played a typing tutor game already and lost interest when it got difficult, so I figured, "No way will this keep their attention! Let the tantrums begin!"

Okay, I am not too proud to admit when I am wrong.

My oldest did the first lesson without a single murmur of complaint. Then she did Lesson 2 without a twitch. I honestly think if I had printed more of it out, she may have kept going indefinitely!! (lesson learned!)

Her reaction: "I like this typing program better! I like it that it isn't timed. I spent so much time with the other program worrying about the time and making mistakes that put me behind that I was more nervous and made more mistakes."

Interesting, no?

So, hats off to Christian Keyboarding (aka Keyboarding for the Christian School) for creating a program that doesn't feel the need to cover content with flash - games might be great for some children, but apparently my oldest isn't one of them. (I can't wait to put the first-grader in this program now... maybe this summer.) My daughter does these lessons without grumbling or complaining, and she has a Word document to show her what she accomplished after each lesson (yes, I am saving them for her).

To see what my fellow Crew Members thought of this program, click here.

*Disclaimer: I received this product for free with the understanding that I would use and review it. A positive review was not required, just deserved. I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What About Socialization?

Yes, let's talk about that. Probably some of you who drop in wonder if my kids get enough socialization, and if you rely on the world for your answers, you can pat yourself on the back for letting your child attend "regular" school, whether it is private or public.

However, let's take a moment to talk about what "socialization" actually is.

The most basic definition of socialization is "to interact with others." Okay, so unless you homeschool so your child can sit in her room all day and you can have a life, i can't see how a homeschooled child is not getting socialization (especially if there are siblings in the home!).

A more profound definition of socialization is "the process of being raised within a culture and acquiring the characteristics of the given group." Hmm. That sort of sums it up for me. So, in essence, socialization under this definition is to allow a person to be enmeshed in a certain way of living so as to become a person capable of living in that manner. Does that mean if my child is socialized by her peers in public school that she will acquire those characteristics and believe in that culture? As a matter of fact, that is exactly what happened.

See, we started out in the public school system - and one of the best in the state, mind you. However, in kindergarten we faced "you can't be her friend if you are going to be my friend" and "no talking unless asked a question" rules of socialization. In first grade we learned that there were cool kids and not-cool kids, and you wanted the cool kids to like you, and we learned that you can get in trouble just because you are sitting beside someone who gets in trouble because adults don't care about the truth, they care about control. By second grade, we had become snotty, nasty, kids-know-and-adults-don't emotional basket cases with grades that continued to drop.

Yeah, we gave up that culture in favor of one that would encourage, enable, prosper, and equip our children rather than demean, neglect, bully, and derail them from a bigger purpose: adulthood. We tend to lose sight of the fact that these little people are to someday become functional adults. Especially when we let the government instruct them however they choose, with whatever information they choose, and in the manner of their choosing. No, the state does not know your child better than you do.

My children are well-mannered, polite, knowledgeable, kind, compassionate, loving, and aware of their place in the world. Everyone who spends any amount of time with them compliments me on my parenting. One lady even said she'd gladly take any advice i wanted to give about parenting because my children were so great. Surely talking to Mom, Dad, brother, sister, neighbors, friends after school and on weekends, grandparents, aunts, and anyone in the city that happens to talk to them when we are out counts as socialization. And since it seems to be working, i see no reason to doubt it. (and i have spent enough time with kids who are being raised in public schools to know the difference)

By the way, socialization can also be defined as "to take into collective or governmental ownership." Yep, that about sums up the issue for me. I'll keep my rights as a parent to educate and raise my children, thank you very much.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cans, Boxes, and Packs

Okay, Middle Tennessee, you are being given a mission:

Let's FILL Grace Chapel's Food Pantry this weekend!

This week, the kiddos and i are collecting non-perishable food items with the knowledge that God will meet the needs of the poor through our efforts.

Things to consider: Jesus met people's basic needs for food, water, healing, love, and compassion; Jesus offered both actions of love and words of salvation; the pairing of deeds and truths is the ultimate demonstration of the pure, redeeming love of Christ.

Won't you join me?

A can of peas.
A bag of rice.
A box of pasta.
A jar of sauce.
A little can mean a lot. In the right hands.
Grace Chapel's Food Pantry is filling those hands daily.

email me for more information:

God Bless You, whether you can give or not.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

God is Good

Ever notice you can look back on your life and see all the times God was leading you toward something great and you didn't even know it?

Do you ever realize that God has protected you from something you didn't see coming?

Ever look back over your journal and mark off all the answered prayers?

Do you ever wonder how you doubt God's faithfulness after you witness Him in an amazing way?

Me, too.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bertie's War (TOS Crew Review)

We received the book, Bertie's War, written by Barbara Tifft Blakey, published by Kregel Publications, to read and review as members of the 2009-2010 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. The book is a novel about a 12-year-old girl in 1962 who is dealing with the usual family dynamics issues in addition to her fear of all the talk about bombs and Communists.

We started the book together, but I realized pretty early that my children would probably not enjoy this book. One, they are a bit too young (the eldest is barely 10), and two, the main character is quite complex. Bertie's family involves an older sister - one who is pretty typical, in my opinion, and seems to look down a bit on her more "immature" younger sister (Bertie) - as well as a younger brother who is nearly always into some mischief. She also has a fairly detached father who seems overly-critical, and a mother who seems to do the balancing act of mothers everywhere.

I can honestly say that I did identify with the main character quite a bit, but that did not make it easier to get into the book. I was quite uncomfortable with my eldest daughter's questions about "the woodshed" even though I realize it was likely a commonplace discipline method of the time period. I do think this book would be better suited to teens, especially teen girls. The understanding of complex behaviors and implicit feelings would be critical to enjoying this novel. While I understood Bertie's fears and feelings, I do not think it would be widely understood by people who did not grow up in Bertie's shoes - with a critical, detached father, watching your siblings be severely disciplined and feeling there is no room for error in life, and having the sense that you are not able to open up to your parents about real fears (in Bertie's case, the threat of war). A person who does not understand that background might just get frustrated with her character's severe insecurity.

Anyway, the book weaves morality and a depth of character into the book quite flawlessly, but is just wasn't right for my children for right now. I have a feeling, though, that my eldest daughter will gobble it up in a few years!

To see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say, click here.

* Disclaimer: This novel was provided to me for free to read and review honestly. I received no compensation for this review. This review is my honest opinion about the novel I received.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King, Jr!

Today, the kids and i had some friends over, and i decided to do an actual MLK lesson. First, i handed out snack: some kids got crackers and others got chocolate. My kids didn't like that too much! Next, i had them write how that experience made them feel (did they feel good to get the "better" snack? or did they feel bad to get the "bad" snack?).

Then i introduced Mr. King. We talked about who he was and what he saw growing up black in the South during the 1930s. We talked about segregation - separate water fountains (and the conditions of each), separate schools, Martin losing a white playmate when school started, and Blacks being forced to give up their seats on buses to Whites. i explained that being discriminated against doesn't feel good or fair, and we talked about their feelings during the "discrimination" snack.

Then we read the story "The Crayon Box That Talked," which is about diversity, and we discussed how important it is to have all different kinds of people in the world. They each colored a paper crayon however s/he wanted to represent how s/he thought s/he would look if s/he were a crayon, and we discussed the positives of each.

The last thing i did was have my eldest read 2 paragraphs - one was written with improper grammar, poor spelling, and no punctuation; the other was written with proper grammar and spelling, words that flowed, and appropriate punctuation. We then discussed the different ways we would respond to and expect others to respond to the two different types of communication. Both messages were the same, but the delivery was quite different. I explained the importance of a proper education if you want people to take you seriously in life. We discussed how easy it would be to have a VERY RIGHT and GOOD idea, but be ignored because you sound like an uneducated person. Then i explained how well-educated Mr. King was, and how he traveled outside of the South to get higher education than what was available in the South to black people.

Overall, i think it was a successful lesson about discrimination and how even one person can make a difference. We had art, creative writing, history, and civics. We'll do math tomorrow.

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King, Junior, and thank you for your contribution and sacrifice.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Calling All Families...

...If you live in one of the following states:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia

... We are in need of one family from each of those states to volunteer to send a postcard from YOUR FAMILY to another family in each of the other 49 states. If you think your kids would get a kick out of getting mail from all over the USA, please visit:

You can leave comments here or email me at: for more information.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


A blog entry right now seems insignificant in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti (praying!), so i will keep it short so you can all go read more about that and pray.

Tonight, i learned a very important lesson. It isn't the first time i have learned the lesson, nor will it be the last i am sure, but God knows i am forgetful and He is gracious. :->

It is not about me.
It is not about fair.
It is not about right.
It is not about wrong.
It is about good.
It is about evil.
And it is about choosing which team you want to play for.

Not much of a choice, really, but it is one He gives us.

I know which jersey i'm putting on... for tonight, at any rate. And i'm praying i always make that choice.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Read and Share Toddler Bible

The Wee Wonder and I have been enjoying the Read and Share Toddler Bible we received from Thomas Nelson publishers. She really likes the fun pictures and simple stories, and I like how short the stories are - no losing her attention while telling the story of Moses, or Noah, or... you get my drift! Plus, whenever a story is shorter than her interest, she instructs me to read the next one. She uses the pictures to take us to her favorite stories when she wants to hear a particular story again (they usually involve babies, typical little girl that she is!). She is proud to have her very own Bible, since everyone else in the house has their own, and she calls me to read it to her often.

The Read and Share Toddler Bible also comes with a DVD of an hour of short bible story videos. All of my children enjoy watching those. The older children know a bunch of the stories, and the video is a great way to "tie it all together" - which children really love to do!

The only downside to this Bible for us is it's size - it isn't large, it is just larger than some children's Bibles - and really, a good Bible is generally over-sized, so we are a bit used to that! The Wee Wonder just likes to take her own Bible to church with her like everyone else does, and it is a bit heavy for her to handle for very long. Overall, this is a great addition to the many "stages" of Bibles we have around here, and I am blessed to have been able to share it with my children. I recommend this Bible to anyone looking for a children's Bible that will be appropriate and interesting to children between the ages of 2 and 6 (because new readers also like simple, short stories, I think this Bible would still be of interest after the toddler years).

You can purchase this book directly from Thomas Nelson Publishers by clicking here.

***Disclosure: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their <> book review bloggers program. This review is my own opinion, and a positive review was not required, just deserved. :->

Monday, January 11, 2010

From Me to You

I made up my own version of beef and barley last year just because i wanted to try barley - it's a grain, it's high in whole grain fiber, and it is an inexpensive way to stretch a meal because whole grains make you full. So i thought i would share my recipe with my readers since it is tasty and warm, and there is nothing like a savory stew in the winter!

Keep in mind, any measurements are approximate. If you are the kind of cook who follows a recipe to a T and never deviates, this may be frustrating for you!! I apologize in advance.

**beef - whatever kind you want, about 1/2 lb per serving. I like sirloin, cut into bite-size pcs., but have also used ground beef and made mini meatballs (think Italian Wedding Soup)
**beef broth, low sodium if possible, i prefer organic
**Better Than Bouillon Organic Beef Paste (near the broths, in a jar, in the grocery)
**Pearled Barley (this can be trickier to find, but your grocery store has it - just ask someone if you can't locate it)
**herbs if desired (sometimes i use sage, sometimes oregano or parsley, sometimes none)

  1. Okay, first thing, you want to prepare your beef - either make your meatballs or cut your meat - and lightly salt and pepper it (salt and pepper ground beef PRIOR to making meatballs). BE CAREFUL NOT TO OVER SALT. The BtB Paste is salty!!
  2. Cut carrots and celery into bite-sized pieces, but we are looking for hearty, so don't cut them too small.
  3. Cook beef in bottom of soup pot (i recently did this in my pressure cooker for the first time, and WOW! it was amazing and fast - so if you have a pressure cooker, the steps are the same but the times are MUCH shorter) until it is lightly browned on outside but not cooked through.
  4. Add BtB paste (about a tablespoon is good) and stir beef into it for just a moment, then add appropriate amount of water.
  5. Add broth (depending on how much soup you are making, you will want half total volume of liquid to come from prepackaged broth and half from water and BtB paste).
  6. Add vegetables and herbs, but NOT the barley.
  7. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover. (sample broth at this point for salt/pepper/seasoning)
  8. Simmer about an hour, then add barley (1/2 cup goes a long way).
  9. Cook another 45 minutes or until barley is tender.
Enjoy, and stay warm!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Random Winter Days

Christmas Eve.
Before the kids.
Gifts under the tree.
Stockings hung neatly.
The floor is still tidy.
Ah, Christmas Eve.

Christmas morning.

The children are awake.

The gifts have been opened.

The stockings have been gutted.

Ah, Christmas morning.

Yes, she's shaving her face.
She's homeschooled. What can i say?
We let her explore without confusing her with gender issues. :->

Dania got a Baby Alive for Christmas.
It pees and poops.
Thanks, MidaGohn and MisGetta!
Here she is feeding it a bottle.
On the potty.
Because who wants to change those yucky diapers?

And here she is reading to her baby while her baby learns to use the potty.
What a good Mommy!

The above is a typical winter day in South Central Tennessee.

This one is our freak snowstorm this week.
Yes, that's grass. But that's about as much as see here.
Now, ice.... that's another story altogether.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Free?? Really??

I have somehow missed out on the Homeschool Freebie of the Day party happening here. Not sure how it happened, but since i discovered it a day after i could have gotten something we would have enjoyed, i thought i would share that information with YOU. Now we can ALL take part and not miss any more goodies!

Also, there is a site for a local daily coupon or deal and i get credits for referring people, but it doesn't cost anything unless you actually purchase a coupon or deal. Confused?? Don't be! Just go here and use your email address to sign up (no spam!), then you will get emails daily about local deals or coupons available. (unfortunately for my out of state readers, you will have a different shopping area, so your coupons will be different from mine, but still!!)

These days, you just never know where you will find something to bless your day, and finding something FREE generally appeals to people. We're funny that way.

It won't get up to freezing around here for a few days, so i am buckling in to enjoy several slippers-and-robe days in a row. Have a FABULOUS night, and stay warm!