Monday, July 25, 2011

A Contagious Laugh

We are having Vacation Bible School at my church this week. We started yesterday (Sunday afternoon/evening), and are continuing in the mornings today (Monday) through Thursday. I am doing the crafts for preschool and kindergarten, and so all 3 kids are also participating. Kindergarten (with my oldest, Rebekah) is next door to the craft room, preschool (with my 2nd daughter, Reanna) is right down the hall, and the nursery (with my son, Ryan) is on the other side of the craft room. So I can often hear what all my kids' classes are doing. I haven't heard my daughters individually yet, but I can often hear Ryan. Laughing, cackling, giggling, and having a good old time!

He has a contagious laugh.

I can't help but smile when I hear his laugh (if not laugh outright myself). I've seen him make other people smile and grin too. Ryan has no idea he's doing it (at least, I don't think so), but his joy and glee at everything just cannot be held in, and others just can't help but smile at his enthusiasm and happiness. They sometimes don't even realize they're grinning right back at him.

Yesterday, at the end of VBS, my oldest got one of those blow-out party toys, where you blow hard into it and the paper curl straightens out and makes a horn sound. Well, I had picked up Ryan first and was holding him in my arms (he tends to run off in every direction at once if you let his feet touch the ground), holding Reanna's hand, and then we went to get Rebekah from her class. Then we began to walk out of the building while Rebekah blew her toy, making that party horn sound.

Ryan thought it was hilarious.

I stopped to talk for a minute with the resource room lady, trying to ignore my children while they continued to toot and laugh, and in the middle of a sentence, the resource lady just stopped and started grinning at Ryan. We totally lost track of our own conversation. Every time Rebekah tooted her party horn, Ryan cackled.

I continued down the hall, children in tow.

The pastor was at the end of the hall, saying hello to people and thanking the workers. We were still a few people away from him when, yes, Rebekah tooted her horn. Ryan threw his head back and gave a great big belly laugh. Everyone turned to watch him, grinning, as he continued to laugh with abandon.

What a ham. He's only 2 and a half right now. I don't know what I'll do with him when he starts realizing what he's doing. Isn't the 3rd/youngest child supposed to be the clown? Mine is definitely heading that way.

Fortunately, by the time we got to the car, Rebekah had blown out her horn completely, and it stopped working, so I didn't have to listen to it the whole way home. But every now and then, remembering Ryan's laugh, I just chuckled.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Last Shuttle Flight

Tomorrow morning, at 5:56am Eastern time, the shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to land in Florida. The last shuttle. It does make me sad, since the space shuttle has been a part of my life for quite a while. So I thought I'd write a blog post about it.

When I was a sophomore in high school, living overseas in Germany, I took physics. I loved that class, and I loved my teacher, Mrs. Smothers. She made things very interesting, and I loved all the experiments we got to do. I still have quite clear memories of some of them - the water wave tank, the portable planetarium that took up the entire classroom, basic mechanics experiments in the hallways. That's probably why I ended up majoring in physics in college. I was also very proud of my teacher since she signed up for the very first Teacher in Space program and was selected as one of 2 teachers to represent American teachers in Europe. At this level of the selection process, 2 teachers from each state, plus 2 from various overseas locations (teaching in American schools), were chosen to come for interviews and testing and all. She had little hope that she would get any further, due to physical limitations, but she was so excited to have gotten that far. She wrote in my little signature book at the end of the school year that she hoped to wave to me from space soon! Due to her participation in this program, I became interested in the space program as well.

Mrs. Smothers didn't get any farther in the selection process, for which I was grateful when, the following year, the Challenger Disaster occurred, with the first teacher in space on board. We lived in Oklahoma that year, my junior year, having moved back to the States the previous summer. I was home from school sick that day, when my dad called and told us we better turn on the tv. We watched the news, stunned.

I still kept my interest in space strong. The following summer we moved to Issaquah, Washington, as my dad retired from the Air Force, and I began my senior year of high school. I remember making a model of a space station out of Legos for my current affairs class. I used different colored Legos for different parts of the station - life support, propulsion, etc. All this was because NASA was talking about building a permanent space station. I also studied astronomy that year as an independent study, since I had already taken physics.

When I started college, I decided to major in physics and astronomy, as well as music - my other love. It took me 5 years, but I still never could choose between the sciences and music. Then we got a new music minister at our church up there in Renton, Washington, who just happened to have a brother who had just been selected as an astronaut. I made sure to meet him.  ;-)

I spent a few years wandering between potential careers, trying out astronomy in grad school as a precursor to becoming an astronaut myself, burning out and coming back to music and more artistic pursuits, then jumping into librarianship so I could read all those books which were my other passion. I realized I could combine some of these interests, and took a 6-week unpaid science library internship in Houston, Texas, at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, next door to Johnson Space Center. My music minister's astronaut brother found me a jeep to borrow for those 6 weeks. A jeep which belonged to an astronaut who just happened to be training in Russia for the year. It was a stick shift, and I didn't know how to drive a stick shift, but I learned the basics and took really, really good care of that jeep!

I also made an interesting discovery while filing newspaper clippings at the library. There was a field called space robotics. I had never heard of such a thing before, but I was fascinated, and realized that maybe I still could become an astronaut if I got a PhD in space robotics.

At the end of my internship, my astronaut friend was scheduled to launch on the shuttle, STS-69, and my family was invited. We went, and got to sit in the VIP viewing area and, after a few delays, watched my friend launch into space aboard the shuttle.

I have no words to describe that experience.

Let me just say that my desire to become an astronaut increased significantly.

When I returned home from my internship, I researched space robotics graduate programs and started applying. I got accepted to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA - the premier school for robotics. I learned computer programming really quickly, and began to program robots to explore space. I found the professors who had connections to NASA and worked for them. I volunteered to advise a high school robotics team, funded by NASA Headquarters. I picked a thesis topic relevant to space exploration, and got to travel to the high Canadian arctic and to Antarctica. I learned how to fly planes and got my private pilot's license. I went skydiving. I got to go down to Florida for another launch, driving all the way from Pennsylvania with my former music minister's family (who had taken a new job in PA). I went down to Houston for another internship, this time at Johnson Space Center itself. My astronaut friend took me to meet Duane Ross, the guy who selects all the new astronauts. I began applying to be an astronaut, even though I didn't have my PhD and wasn't completely qualified yet.

And I tried to learn how to scuba dive. Scuba diving is required for astronaut candidates. I didn't know how to swim, but I figured I better learn if I wanted to become an astronaut.

It didn't work. I freak out underwater, I discovered, and this greatly dimmed my enthusiasm. I was also becoming more interested in space robotics as a career in itself, and not just a stepping stone to being an astronaut. I was enjoying working as a roboticist at NASA. I was enjoying the opportunity to do robotics research in beautifully extreme and remote locations. Space is cool, but Earth is a pretty fascinating place to explore too.

I did take swimming lessons the next fall, but my aspirations had subtly altered. I graduated with my PhD and went to work at Johnson Space Center, getting to know multiple astronauts and getting to do lots of cool space robotics. I stopped applying to be an astronaut, because I was pretty happy with things the way they were right then. I met a guy at my church who also worked at NASA, and we got engaged.

I usually cut my hair myself, with just a plain long hair style, but I planned to get a professional cut a few months before my wedding. The day this was scheduled also happened to be the day a shuttle was supposed to land. In many parts of the country, most people don't even know when the shuttle is up or down, but in Houston, it's always on the local news. Even those of us who work at NASA don't always pay too much attention to when launches or landings happen - at least back then - but we usually know approximately when they are. So that Saturday morning, when I got up to get ready for my hair cut, I realized the shuttle should be landing any minute now and turned on NASA TV to watch.

There were no pictures of the shuttle. I frowned, looked at the clock, and turned up the volume. There should have been pictures of the shuttle high in the atmosphere, gliding down through the clouds. I checked the landing time on the computer and then looked at my clock again. There should have been pictures of the shuttle on the ground. There weren't. Columbia didn't make it back.

This time, the emotions were much, much stronger than with Challenger. This time, I worked at NASA. This time, I had actually met and talked to one of the astronauts on board that shuttle. This time, I couldn't stop crying.

My fiance and I talked over the phone for quite a while as the events unfolded. He convinced me to go ahead and get my hair cut, and we made it through the day. My fiance was getting new carpet put in his house, and I went over there and we stood watching the news on tv as the carpet layers worked around us. We went back to work the next week, and everyone was somber. Hundreds of volunteers drove the few hours north to help locate, identify and sort through the debris of Columbia over the next few weeks. Thousands stood in the mall area on-site when the president came to speak at our memorial service. Thousands stood silent during the ceremony.

NASA survived, and we survived, and the shuttle program survived. And tomorrow is the last landing, may it be a safe one. My life is so intertwined with so many memories and images of the space shuttle that it is hard to imagine not having any more launches and landings. The course of my life, and the unfolding of my own personal events, has been changed and affected by the space shuttle. I have made sure to have my young children watch all the launches and landings that I could over the last few years. I don't know if they'll remember much, being so young, but all 3 of them were mesmerized by the most recent - the last - shuttle launch. They count down from 10 with the announcer, they raise their hands and shout "Blast off!".  My middle child, just 3 years old, has said several times that she wants to go into space and be an astronaut. I hope they remember some of this, over the next few years without any shuttle launches. I hope they are still inspired to explore space.

But I imagine this is how others felt when the Apollo program ended so many years ago. Many years passed, after the last mission to the Moon, before the space shuttle program began in earnest. In fact, the Apollo program ended when I was just about the same age as my own children are now. I was born just 8 days after the first human stepped foot on the Moon.

Neil Armstrong, July 20th, 1969. Exactly 42 years ago today.

I don't remember seeing any of the Apollo launches, but I still developed a strong interest in space. Who knows what my children will witness over the next twenty or thirty years? Hopefully plenty to inspire, plenty to encourage, plenty to remember. Hopefully not the last, but the first of many flights to come.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sonlight and BJU History Videos

As I've mentioned before, history was my least favorite subject in school, and I really think a literature-based approach, including historical fiction, is the most intriguing way to teach history. However, I also really liked what I saw in the sample elementary-age distance learning history videos from BJU. They include skits, re-enactments, and props which I think can bring history alive just as much as historical fiction. If I'm going to be buying a full-grade BJU distance learning kit anyway, I am very tempted to use their history too, and not just the English and math which is my primary teaching concern.

Sonlight, BJU - is there a way to combine them? Is it too much to do both? I think it would be too much to do both in their entirety, unless history is going to be your primary focus in school. (That's one qualm I had about Sonlight earlier even - history is pretty much the core for them, and is more of a focus than I had really wanted. Math and English should be the primary focus for the earlier grades, and I really prefer science to history, as far as the secondary subjects.)

However, BJU history (which they call Heritage Studies) in 1st-4th grades and in 6th grade, are just 1 semester courses. I think there will be time to add in select books from Sonlight to go along with each BJU course, spreading it out to a full year. To add even more flexibility, BJU is a textbook approach, despite the videos, and has quizzes and tests, which I could easily omit for elementary history work. Now, I am more comfortable with having some form of testing for student accountability, which is an aspect of using BJU that relieves some of my concerns about homeschooling, but I'm not too set on using tests for elementary history. As long as they are hearing (and seeing) the material and able to tell me about it verbally, I think that's enough for their age in history.

Another issue for combining is that BJU history does not follow the same sequence as Sonlight. BJU focuses on chronological US history for 1st-5th grade, not going back to do world history until 6th grade. Sonlight does world cultures in Core A, world history in Cores B & C, and US history in Cores D & E. But even though BJU does primarily US History, they add in a few choice world history tidbits from the same timeframe for each year. I have gone through the Sonlight book lists for cores A-E and categorized the books I like by time period and location, fitting them into whichever BJU year they match. Most of them end up being readable by the student at that grade level, though for 1st and 2nd, many of them I will have to read aloud. Adding these books is essential, I believe, for gaining the broader cultural "friendliness" and exposure which I love about Sonlight. The Sonlight books that are not history-related (just being readers), or that don't have reviews I like, we will just skip (or replace). This brings the total down to a very reasonable number to go along with the BJU videos.

For 6th grade world history, I will most likely add in more of my own choices to preface the BJU course, adding in prehistory from an old-earth perspective. In some ways, it is better to do this in 6th grade instead of in Core B of Sonlight (around 1st-3rd grade), as the student will be more mature and able to understand all the controversy and different options concerning this time period.

As for the higher grades, I will probably use more of Sonlight. I think I want to do the entire Core F of Sonlight, as it will introduce many valuable history lessons, instead of BJU 7th grade (more ancient/world history). I will probably use Cores G & H too (world history) in the next 2 grades, though not in their entirety, since I don't like the core spines Sonlight uses then. I may even use portions of the BJU 10th grade world history text as a spine. We'll see when the time comes. I plan to combine Sonlight's Core 100 and BJU's 11th grade US history courses for 10th grade, similarly to how I'm combining the elementary courses. I will also use parts of Sonlight's Core 300 (20th century world history) in combination with BJU's 10th grade world history textbook (not the video) again for 11th grade. For US government and economics in 12th grade, I will most likely use BJU's video course alone. So, that gives me a full plate for each year!

As we actually get to these grades, I will post a list of the extra books we end up using. Soon, I'll post a list of what I'm planning on using for 1st grade. If you are interested in what books I'm thinking of for a certain later year, feel free to ask me, and I can go ahead and give you my preliminary list.

As for other BJU courses past 6th grade, I am trying not to make up my mind yet, until we see how the first 6 years go. I do favor BJU English for the entire schooling adventure. Their math sounds good (mostly mastery), but they do not go all the way to calculus, so if my children are math whizzes, we may switch to something else at some point - either plain textbooks or other more advanced video/dvd programs (Chalkdust or Thinkwell, for example - see my earlier post too). We will probably use Math Mammoth worksheets for summer review sessions during elementary school too. So, we may or may not get full-grade BJU videos past 6th grade, but for the 1st 6 years (or 7, including kindergarten), I think I will easily make use of BJU math, history, and English (which includes reading, phonics/grammar/writing, handwriting, and spelling).

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Changing My Mind

My lovely, well-researched, well-thought-out plan for English is fading fast. Neither I nor my daughter are enjoying it much, and this is not a good thing. She even told the doctor today, during her 6-year-old checkup, that she didn't like reading. (On the plus side, she did say she liked math.)

I'm not sure exactly what the problem is. Perhaps it is the black and white workbook pages? Too many "problems" on each page? The Learning through Sounds II book does have a lot of fill-in-the-blank-letter words, for sound/letter recognition, on these first few pages in the workbook. Her handwriting has actually gotten better, though, so it's not as hard for her to write. Some of the hand-drawn pictures on the pages are hard to identify, and perhaps are a bit too Amish and farm related. The Climbing to Good English workbook is very similar, since they are made to go together. She loved the workbook the first few days, because of the dog mascot that appeared on every page. But it is perhaps too much of the same thing day after day? The Evan-Moor workbook pages we've tried are a little better, but are still black and white. They have very short lessons for each day, but I still encounter much resistance from my daughter, and a pouting attitude.

I did have a little success in changing her attitude the day I told her that if she didn't stop pouting, I'd give her more worksheets to do! She paused, then turned to me with a big smile plastered all over her face! It was a little fake, but she did cheer herself up, making things much more pleasant for me.

I'm pretty sure that the worksheet style and quantity has a little to do with her dislike, but I will confess that the majority of it is probably my approach to teaching it to her. I just cannot make myself nearly as exuberant teaching English as I can teaching, say, science. I tend to tell her what to do on the page as quickly as I can and then just tell her to do the page. Not the best teaching method. Some of it is my lack of interest in the subject, and my frustration with this basic level of education, and a lot of it is having to deal with my 2 and 3 year olds at the same time.

("Stop coloring on the desk! Don't take your sister's scissors! Sit down! No, not at my desk! Stop singing so loud! Stop grabbing your brother's cars! Stop grabbing your sister's hair! Stop crying! Stop! Stop!" - it really is quite constant sometimes.)

I still really like the concept of the Pathway readers, Climbing to Good English, and Learning through Sounds approach. The teacher guides have tons of good information about how to present the material, how to drill the students so they get everything they need to, in what order to teach things, etc. I love the back-to-basics approach, with wholesome, moral beliefs intertwined in the material. I love the inexpensive price for all that you get. I think this course of study would still be really good for many homeschool teachers, and has the potential to be used well with multiple grades. But I think the parent/teacher must still be a good, willing teacher in order to engage the child. The teacher guides talk about this, and show how to do this, but I find myself skipping too many of those parts due to time constraints and lack of interest (on my part, that is). It is not doing my daughter much good, and is driving me crazy, so I am sorrowfully acknowledging that our plans must change.

What If You Don't Like to Teach?

So, what is my plan now? If you have read my blog from the beginning, you might recall that my first thoughts when deciding to homeschool were to use distance learning videos, such as from A Beka Academy (so I'm not really changing my mind, right - just returning to my original mind!). I thought they might be the only way I could homeschool, since I knew I didn't really like teaching. I moved away from that when I started researching curriculum more and found so many other wonderful resources available. I moved away from A Beka when I talked with several friends who had either been taught themselves with A Beka, or were using A Beka with their own children (the textbooks, not the videos). None of them liked it. Too much drill and repetition, too boring, too dry - they had other complaints, but those were probably the main ones. The videos also had bad reviews, as they are just cameras set up in the back of classrooms. Too much time spent listening to other children responding to questions, too long, too much like regular school, etc. My daughter thought the sample videos online were cool (she liked the school atmosphere, I think), but I think she would soon tire of listening to the repetition of other students.

Other places have distance learning videos, primarily for jr high and high school, with several different math programs, some science ones (mostly secular), and classical rhetoric and logic and discussion classes teaching literature and history. Many of these sound wonderful (and expensive), but they are not for early elementary. There are also online game-type sites that are for elementary ages, but they are more supplementary than primary for teaching. There are also co-ops that teach for 1-3 days a week, with the parent doing the rest at home, but these focus on science, literature, and history, leaving the basics of reading, English, and math for the parent - exactly the opposite of what I want! (kinda ironic that I named my site “Teaching the 3 Rs,” huh?)

Bob Jones also has distance learning videos for 4-year-olds through 12th grade which have much more wonderful reviews. They have engaging teachers who address your student directly, with props, field trips, puppets for the younger ages, etc. Their entire curriculum has good reviews, and is intensive and college-prep (very different from the Amish material I've been trying - some of their websites even discourage sending your students to college, which I knew from the start was pretty opposite of my inclination - perhaps I should have paid more attention to our philosophical differences. I still think a college-bound student could use the Amish/Mennonite material with excellent results, just adding more college-prep material in high school.)

Anyway, one reason I steered away from Bob Jones originally was because the textbook material is very teacher-intensive, which I was pretty sure I couldn't handle with 3 students (and didn't want to handle, since I'd rather be hands-off in teaching). Also, the main turn-off for me was their young-earth belief, which is quite strong and can be somewhat dogmatic in their science courses, and is also present in their ancient history texts. Most of their other religious beliefs are very similar to mine, and I don't have any qualms (based only on their online samples) about their take on U.S. history, economics, Christianity, math, English, etc.

However, I am rethinking using their video-based distance learning (just omitting their science). That would take care of the teaching for me, and I think the video teachers would engage my oldest much, much better than I can. Their reading program has extremely high ratings from others, for example. Their higher-level English and literature program also has very high ratings from multiple people, and is very rigorous all the way up through 12th grade.

I think to save my sanity, and my daughter's interest in learning, we really should use BJU videos for English and math (despite my daughter saying she likes math, we really have the same attitude problems - hers and mine - with math every day). Since it is the same price for the whole grade level as it is for 3 classes (and the English is split up into 2-4 classes each year, not even counting math), I will probably just get the whole grade level, even if we don't use it all. I love the skits and field trips they have for history too, and while I had planned on doing the 4-year-cycle for history and using Sonlight, I have figured out how to intertwine Sonlight history reading with BJU history for many years, and will probably still use Sonlight only in some of the later years. (I'll post about those details later - using portions of BJU history and portions of Sonlight.) I will probably also use the BJU Bible course (it's just 15 minutes a day).

I will not, however, use their science, and will continue to teach all 3 children together with our own science courses. (I may pre-screen some of the science videos to show them, however.) Science and art, as I mentioned in an earlier post, are fun for me to teach, and fun for the kids to learn from me. Music, computers, robotics, also, I will teach myself. Reading aloud from historical fiction and even non-fiction is also fun for me to do with the kids, so I will still do that part myself, leaving some of the textbook, fact parts to the BJU teachers.

BJU videos are expensive, yes. But they are much cheaper than sending my 2 youngest ones (or even 1 youngest one) off to daycare so I can focus on my oldest (which I don't want to do anyway, since I want my 2 youngest ones at home too). It will be cheaper to use full-grade videos for all 3 children than to send even one child to a private Christian school, which would be my next move. I don't want to stop homeschooling, and I don't want to send them to a public school, and I don't even really want to send them to a private school. But I'm afraid I will be burnt out very, very soon if I have to continue teaching reading and basic math to all 3 children over the next few years.

It does make me sad to give up some of my earlier plans, and to not use some of the material I’ve bought. The cost does bother me too, considering that you can homeschool for free, really. There are so many resources available, free educational videos, an entire year of history units and activities for $1.99, etc. I am basically a frugal person, and knowing that there are materials available to use so cheaply (if one were only an interested, good teacher), but then spending so much on a video curriculum does disturb me a bit. But what price is sanity?! And if the alternative is public school, even my husband prefers spending the money. We are very fortunate to be able to afford it.

My new role then, aside from continuing to teach science, art, music, computers, robotics, and some history, will be more of a mentor, tutor, and administrator. With the videos, the parent can be as involved as they want to be. At a minimum, the parent must gather and organize the needed materials for the day or week, grade papers, re-teach anything the child didn’t understand from the videos, and help the students focus and maintain a schedule. For many homeschooling parents, those are the unpleasant tasks - they prefer to focus on the teaching. I, however, don’t like that part (except in science). I actually enjoy the administrative parts! So I think maybe distance learning videos are perfect for us.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mixing Colors

Today, our science and art classes went together quite well. We are studying colors this week in science, and our art lesson today is also about colors. Well, I guess art is almost always about colors, in some form or fashion, but this week's lesson is about mixing colors, blending white with bright colors to make paler ones. And our science experiment we did today was mixing primary-colored water to make new colors (e.g. red + yellow = orange).

The science experiment was made much easier, and more fun, by using the jumbo test tubes I just won in a Facebook contest by Discover This (website: They had posted a picture on facebook of some mystery object magnified 43x. I guessed it was the bottom of a mouse pad, which turned out to be correct! So they sent me these test tubes, as well as a Magic School Bus volcano kit, which I plan to use in conjunction with week 16 of our Intro to Science course, which is on volcanos. Pretty neat how it all fits together!

So, for the color mixing experiment, the experiment called for using 3 squeezable bottles (like empty dishwashing soap containers) full of water dyed with food coloring, in the 3 primary colors of red, blue, and yellow. They the kids could squeeze the colored water into clear bowls to mix colors in various combinations. I didn't have 3 squeezable bottles on hand, so what we did instead was take 3 clear plastic bowls and filled them with the 3 primary colors (food-color-dyed water). Then I gave each child a medicine dropper and one of the jumbo test tubes, and they were "scientists" mixing "solutions" of color.The girls loved it, and did quite well. My 2-year-old Ryan loved it, but could not for the life of him figure out how to fill up the medicine dropper. So I filled the dropper for him, and he squirted it into his test tube. Mostly. His aim is not so good, so we used quite a few washrags to clean up all the spilled/squirted water everywhere.

Going along with the color theme, the nature walk for this week is to try and find a rainbow outside. It actually rained yesterday (we've been in drought conditions for months, so this was quite a welcome surprise), so we ran outside to look for rainbows, but unfortunately didn't find one. We might even get more rain this week, so maybe we'll find a rainbow by Friday. If not - I've got a prism handy, and we'll make our own.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Crystal Pictures

Just thought I'd post a picture of the crystals we're growing in our pie pan. They really grew a lot overnight!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Crystals and Paint Are Fun!

I just finished cleaning up the girls' paint palettes after our art class and sent them to the playroom, so I thought I'd write a blog entry. We do art once a week, using a book called Discover Art by Laura H. Chapman. I found the books on, after reading some good reviews about the series. I actually bought it (and all the books in the series) for about a penny each, though shipping was $3.99.

There are 6 books, for grades 1 through 6, I assume, though this level 1 book we're doing right now is good for both my almost-6-year-old and my 3.5-year-old. I've let my 2.5-year-old boy participate a few times, since he likes coloring and painting, but he doesn't really understand the point of the lesson most of time. For that matter, my 3.5-year-old girl may not get it very well either, but at least she doesn't eat the crayons and smear paint and glue on herself like my son does! I waited until his naptime today to have art class. It's just much cleaner that way. The lessons are very basic - lines, curves, colors, painting, paper collages, but there are some nice images in the book to demonstrate things. Today's lesson had some paintings by Van Gogh.

These books are out of print, and there is also another series by Laura Chapman called Adventures in Art, which is also out of print, I believe. I think that series is very similar to mine, maybe even just repackaged. The books I got are old library books, but I think they were frequently used in elementary schools years ago. Anyway, they are perfect for our art lessons, with short lessons using a wide variety of activities and simple materials. I made up a list of materials needed for the level 1 book, and it includes crayons, white & colored paper, construction paper, scissors, glue, paints & paintbrushes, clay or playdough, colored pencils, markers, textured objects for tracing and pasting, cardboard tubes, objects to use as stamps, paper plates, stapler, string, tape, paper cups, and fabric pieces. I haven't gone through books 2-5 in as much detail, but they seem to follow a similar pattern.

The other hands-on activity we did today was for science class. We are making crystals in a pie pan. This activity was listed in the Intro to Science course we're doing, but is detailed in the More Mudpies to Magnets book. It is fairly simple, though we had to have some "blueing agent" which I had to order. You put some sponge pieces, water, blueing agent, salt, and ammonia in a pie pan, and then let it sit for several days to let crystals grow. We started it about 4-5 hours ago, and it is already showing some nice white crystal structures around the perimeter of the pie pan, just above the liquid level. The ammonia smelled terrible, but overall, it is a good and easy experiment.

The kids all enjoy the science and art work that we do. I never have to prod or push or scold them into doing those classes, or to pay attention while I'm talking. I enjoy teaching these subjects too. Science - because it is fascinating and one of my favorite topics, and art - because it can be beautiful, colorful, and I love making art myself.

Now, math and English, on the other hand, can be a pain for both my daughter and myself. I am realizing that I could never be an elementary school teacher! I admire those who do teach these ages, year after year! I am just not patient enough for all the necessary repetition that these subjects require at these young ages. Having to repeat myself has always been one of my biggest pet peeves, and teaching addition and subtraction, letter sounds, and reading in general, to either a kindergartner or a first grader (and probably higher) just requires the teacher to repeat themselves a lot. That's how this age learns. It's not that she doesn't get it - just that learning this stuff and getting it down pat requires lots of repetition.

I should know that, since as a pianist, I have to repeatedly practice the same thing over and over again. I don't mind that, but then, I'm the one doing the repeating for myself. Having to drill things with my daughter is driving me crazy. I get bored, I get frustrated, and I just want to be done with it and move on to something more interesting. That's why I dislike it, I know, and I'm afraid my dislike of it is being transferred to my daughter.

I love the material I've picked out, both for math and for language arts, and think it could be a really great way of teaching. But I'm not liking having to be the one doing the teaching. Impatience on my part, I know. But I'm seriously thinking of switching to a distance learning video product, at least for math and English. That's what I had originally planned to do, upon taking my daughter out of public school, because I knew teaching wasn't my favorite thing to do. But then I got distracted by all the curriculum available, and found so many (cheaper) curriculum products that sounded great and really are great and can make it easy to teach and cover everything needed. But in order to keep my sanity, and to keep my daughter loving to learn, I'm seriously thinking about the Bob Jones distance learning products, at least for elementary school. I'll write more about them later, but I just thought I should confess my thought trends at the moment! Science and art we are all loving, and I will continue teaching those subjects no matter what, but we've got to change something with how we're doing math and English.

Addition and digraphs may drive me crazy, but crystals and paint are fun!