Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year's Eve!

I think my New Year's resolution should be to write a blog post at least twice a week! We'll see how that goes. We've been having internet trouble lately, so hopefully I can post this today, the last day of 2012.

We went to stay with my in-laws for Christmas, in New Mexico. Two out of three kids ended up being sick in the car on the way there. It turns out both of them were sick before we left, though we didn't know it. The youngest was only sick for a short time - some sort of stomach bug - and was fine the rest of the trip. The middle child apparently had an infection which added to her typical motion sickness, and when she didn't stop throwing up after we stopped driving, we ended up taking her to the ER (our first trip to one). She had to be rehydrated with an IV and have antibiotics. Not a fun time. But by the next morning, she was back to smiling and talking and running around. And on the trip back home, all 3 kids were perfectly healthy and happy.

Other than that, our Christmas was great! It figures - all the kids have been so healthy for the entire last year, and then 2 get sick the day we leave on a trip!

I am experimenting with typing my blog post on my tablet instead of the computer. I don't think I like it as much. The touch keypad is much harder to use than a regular keyboard, and the formatting keeps getting messed up. In fact, I think I'll switch over to the laptop before I post this and clean it up a bit.

Ah, much better! Much faster too. I guess I'll stick to blogging on a real computer.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Catching Up Update

Wow, it's been a long time since I've written a blog post. I guess we've been busy. And once I get out of the habit of blogging, I tend to take a while to get back into it.

We went to Disneyworld at the end of September, to celebrate my parents' 50th wedding anniversary.

A year or so ago, when we were discussing what they'd like to do, they picked a trip to Disneyworld with the grandkids as their favorite choice. So we went! We weren't sure we were going to make it a few times, what with my dad's health issues - coming down with mysterious physical and mental issues (soon after making the Disneyworld reservations a year ahead of time), being diagnosed with NPH, having brain surgery this past January, the slow recovery. But things seemed to be improving so much by this summer that we got our hopes up again. We made it to the week before, started getting out suitcases, started packing - and then my dad had some suspicious heartbeats during a physical therapy session and ended up in the hospital again a few days before the trip was to start. They did so many tests, but (thanks to so many prayers, most likely), they found nothing wrong, and released him from the hospital 1 day before our flight to Orlando!

Fortunately, they had already packed. We left on time, and had a great time! This was the first time for all 3 grandkids, and they absolutely loved it. We all loved watching them love it, too.

My son (3 years old at the time) cried every time a ride was over, and I had to pry his hands off the handlebars and bribe him with another ride to get  him out. The Speedway was his favorite, where you get to drive your own car around the track. I had to carry him away kicking and screaming when that ride was over.

The girls loved everything too, and a couple nights we took them back out to see fireworks after leaving their little brother sleeping in the hotel room with the grandparents. They felt like they owned the parks.

They really loved everything. The hotel (Old Key West resort), the buses, boats, and monorails we took to get to all the parks, the rides, the shows, the walking (or strolling) around, the rides, the food, the characters (well, only the oldest was brave enough for them), the rides, the music floating in the air everywhere, the princesses, the lines (mostly short, but they still liked the lines too), the rides. Did I mention the rides? We got 6-day tickets, and went early most days and went back later most days too.

The kids were amazingly good. And my parents, though tiring more easily than they wished, had a lot of fun too, getting wished happy anniversary everywhere we went.

Anyway, after all that excitement, it was time for annual and bi-annual doctor and dentist appointments, which are always tricky to schedule. And then I've been having more and more shoulder pain, and am now in the midst of physical therapy for tendonitis and extreme range of motion limitations. I did physical therapy 2 years ago, and it got better, but the past 3-4 months, it has gotten much worse than it ever was before. So this is putting a damper on our schedule too, going 2 times a week to therapy.

But school has been plugging away. Ryan is loving his preschool classes, 3 mornings a week, and has already gotten better with his alphabet and counting than he had been doing with me. I think he likes to flirt with his teachers.

Reanna has already learned many of her addition facts, and even some multiplication facts, mostly thanks to computer programs and games. She is also reading some 3-letter words, and sounds out everything she sees. Now that she's 5 (and Ryan is 4 - their joint birthday the beginning of this month was another big deal) - anyway, now that she's 5, she said she's ready to go to "big school" and wants to ride the bus and have a classroom full of kids. She doesn't seem daunted when I tell her that she's already doing some 1st grade work, and she wouldn't be able to start public kindergarten until about 9 months from now. Actually, I think she'd really like going to kindergarten anyway, just for the social aspect.

Rebekah is still doing great with CLE Math, and is ahead of schedule there. She is reading her CLE readers and Sonlight books more and more easily, and is always eager to narrate them to me. Her artistic and musical skills are expanding rapidly, and her spelling is actually improving (we've switched to Rod & Staff spelling 2, which I've had for over a year sitting in my bookshelf). Her handwriting still needs work.... She's learned about the government, listened to me read Hillyer's history, experimented with pulleys and studied Einstein, and done all sorts of Bible story projects. So far, so good!

And now we're taking a break for Thanksgiving. Hopefully I'll blog some more before our Christmas break!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

English changes again

Well, public schools around here start on Monday, but we've had a full school load for a few weeks now (4 days a week, anyway). It's funny - I've seen some raised eyebrows when I've told others that we're already doing school, but then when I tell them we're planning a vacation the end of September, they say, "Oh, ok." I guess they think I'm working the kids too hard! It doesn't take much explaining here in the Houston area, actually, to convince people that having school in the middle of the summer when it's too hot to do anything else is actually a good plan. We'd much rather have time off when it's decent enough weather to go play outside!

We've already changed our curriculum plans for 2nd grade English too. I really, really like the way CLE Language Arts and Reading is set up. It seems like such an organized, thorough program, with plenty of variety for interest, yet covers the material in a rigorous, complete manner.

Rebekah hated it. I admit that she pouts and complains on Monday mornings with many things, but after a few weeks of CLE lessons, she was just impossible to work with. She dragged through the pages, getting slower and slower, and didn't seem to retain any of it. I know that was because she was protesting, and instead of thinking about the material and learning it, her thoughts were more like, "I don't like this. I don't like this." Her handwriting was getting terrible, and her reading was getting slower.

So we changed the curriculum. She did really like the CLE Math curriculum, and we are still doing quite well with that. But for English, with this child, I'm thinking we will be much better off with a more Charlotte Mason-type approach. I have always been in favor of the CM approach for science and history, but have been a bit skeptical of the CM language arts style - delayed grammar teaching, more natural language learning, reading good books to learn proper English, etc.. But really, I think this is going to be the way to go with my oldest. My middle child will do just fine with CLE English, I think (hopefully, so I can still get my money's worth). She's a more structured, workbook type of learner. But for my oldest, we're going to back off on the structured English.

So, what are we using? A mix of things. I cannot bring myself to totally ignore grammar, so we are using parts of a Foresman English workbook we found online here for free. We are using just the grammar portions, doing one lesson a week, split into 3 days of oral questions, and 1 worksheet on the 4th day to review the week's lesson. We go over the main point on Monday and do part A orally. Then we do part B on Tuesday and part C on Wednesday, both orally. This gives her an introduction to some terminology, but at a very relaxed, easy-going pace. It only takes about 5 minutes a day, 4 days a week.

I also give her 1 page of handwriting practice a week. We will move on to learning cursive the 2nd half of this year.

We are still using Writing With Ease level 1, which gives us a little bit more grammar (punctuation), a little bit more handwriting, some copywork (for writing conventions) and narration practice (which we neglected last year, but which has been improving, along with her attention span, considerably so far). This also takes about 5-10 minutes a day, 4 days a week.

I am having her listen to the Wordly Wise level 2 word definitions (found online for free) 1 day a week. There are only 15 lessons, so we will finish this early, and maybe just do games with the words (also free online) the rest of the year. Again, just a bit of exposure - no need to do the whole workbook.

For spelling, as I wrote earlier, we are using Sequential Spelling (level 1), and she is doing remarkably well with this compared to any other spelling. I gave her the option of skipping spelling this year, and she said no, she wants to do Sequential Spelling still. Sometimes she only does half a lesson a day (12-13 words), but she's still going strong (we got the DVD too, which she likes).

For phonics, she is going through the online Click'n'Read lessons, 3-4 lessons a week, since we already have a lifetime subscription to it, and neither of the other kids is using it right now. All the other phonics we've done has been heavy on learning the rules, and that just never went over well with her. Too many rules just confuses her (and me too, sometimes) - she does better picking up on the "rules" naturally.

For reading, I am still having her read through the CLE readers (starting with the Grade 1 reader, which she's almost finished), and instead of doing 3-4 pages of worksheets on each story, I'm just having her tell me about what she read. This is the Charlotte Mason narration practice which I am finding works much better for her. No handwriting, but she has to remember the details of the story, and put them into her own words. She is getting much more out of the stories this way, and is even eager to read them now. She is missing out on some of the insightful questions in the CLE reading curriculum, but we just had to make some compromises. I still can bring out some of the best questions informally (and orally) during our discussion time. We are also going to mix in most of the Sonlight Grade 2 readers this year, with her doing narrations only for each one.

Finally, I am also doing several read-alouds with her, taken from my own interests (Black Stallion), Sonlight lists (core B mostly), and Ambleside Online lists. Right now, we're reading Charlotte's Web, with some stories also from the Burgess Bird Book, Aesop for Children, Parables from Nature, and the Blue Fairy Book. Not to mention our Bible (Leading Little Ones to God) and history (Hillyer's A Child's History of the World) readings. I'm not requiring narrations from her on these, just expecting her to listen. I know that's not quite pure CM-style, but it works for us.

This seems like a lot for English, all written down, but not everything is done every day, and overall, it's only taking us about an hour a day, 4 days a week (with read-alouds being extra time, and also sometimes on Friday and Saturday). And the important part is that she's enjoying it (mostly, except on Mondays), and she's learning!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Three Views on Creation and Evolution

I finally finished reading Three Views on Creation and Evolution. I bought the Kindle version over a year ago, on recommendation from a fellow church member and scientist, to help me understand the three main views of Christians: young earth creationism, old earth creationism, and theistic evolution. There are other names for those 3 views, but those are probably the most common ones. There are also wide variations within those 3 views too, as everyone seems to have a slightly different take on things. The book has 3 main articles, one for each of the views, written by someone who believes in each view. The articles mostly explain each viewpoint, and give various thoughts about why they believe it. There is some loose similarity in the outline of each article, imposed by the editor, but the authors write with such different styles, and emphasize such different points, that the articles are really quite different from each other. Then there are 3-4 reactions to each article, written by people who mostly believe differently than that article's author. These "responders" are all different people than the 3 main article writers - I wish the editor had let each of the 3 respond to each other's articles, but I suppose they wanted even more viewpoints.

I found the book to be extremely interesting, though a little heavy reading, mostly because I kept making notes on everything that I disagreed or agreed with. (I really like the ability to take notes on a book with Kindle, by the way, though it takes me a lot longer to type with the little keyboard.) I found the discussion enlightening, too, since up until a year and a half ago, I hadn't ever heard anyone argue for a young earth. There were some new thoughts in all of the articles for me, some of which I have ruminated over quite a bit now.

I found the young earth article (the first one) to be the least convincing, probably because that is the viewpoint I disagree with most. But I also found many of the arguments to have logical faults. That is the article I probably made the most notes on, as with every logical fallacy made, I just had to make a comment. It was interesting that they admitted that pretty much all scientific data contradicts a young earth theory. It was also not nearly as accusative toward the other viewpoints as I have often heard other young earth proponents be, however, so I appreciated that. In fact, the whole tone of the book was much more cordial than most discussions of this controversy, though a few negative comments (about their opponents) slipped in here and there. The article on old earth, or progressive, creationism probably gave me the most thoughts to contemplate. The article on theistic evolution was by far the most thorough and precise.

[As a side note: I do not have a strong background in biology (I mostly studied physics and astronomy), but I am now inspired to study it more on my own. I think I'll start with a high school text I have handy, and then move on to some of the college material available online. I need to get up to speed before my kids get there, after all!]

I think I fall somewhere in between the viewpoints of the last 2 articles: old earth creationism and theistic evolution. Both made interesting philosophical points, but of course, philosophy cannot prove which viewpoint is the truth. You cannot really prove which Biblical interpretation is the absolute truth either. There really is no way to prove absolutely which viewpoint is the truth, other than going back in time and watching it all happen, or else waiting for God to tell us in heaven. You can decide which viewpoint is more likely, given the scientific data.  Science helps us understand physical reality (as we understand it) - it doesn't cover supernatural intervention, obviously. (And by the way, a "natural" event doesn't mean God had nothing to do with it - it just means it was an event that follows the physical laws we have understood to date.) There really is no way to prove with science what God has done supernaturally. It's like trying to use science to show how a group of worms made a home out of twigs and leaves when actually a little girl came by half an hour ago and made it for them. Perhaps the worms were capable of doing it themselves, but unless she confesses, you might never know how it really happened. (This is not a perfect analogy, so don't try to read more into it!)

My analogy brings up another point, though (in a roundabout way): even if humans evolved from teensy, tiny life forms in the beginning, at some point, I believe God breathed His spirit into us, separating us from all other life forms.  Evolutionists don't have to disbelieve in Adam and Eve. Humans are different than animals (despite some who claim we're not). Our souls are the fingerprint of God. Even if the human form evolved from earlier apes, I believe God chose a single moment in time and a single human-like creature into which He breathed His spirit. God could have created that being at that moment in time, apart from the evolutionary family tree, or He could have taken a special specimen from that family tree and made him at that moment to take on the image of God, creating a true human. I don't think it really matters how God did it, how He created humans. I believe that He did.

I wish it weren't such a controversy among Christians, because that strong, sometimes accusatory and bitter disagreement is a bad example for non-Christians. If we Christians can't accept each other, how would we ever accept them?

I found some interesting statistics a few days ago, from a 2010 survey. (See:
The graphic linked to above doesn't give all the data, but lumps respondents into 3 main groups: those who believe (a) God guided evolution, (b) atheistic evolution (it happened without God), and (c) YEC (young-earth creationism - God created everything about 6000-10000 years ago). These categories are rather vague and lump a lot of people with different viewpoints together (did they not separate out old earth creationists? the remaining category was "other"), but the results are still interesting.

Overall, among all respondents:
God guided evolution: 38%
atheistic evolution: 16%
YEC: 40%

Among weekly church-goers:
God guided evolution: 31%
atheistic evolution: 2%
YEC: 60%
(I wonder about that 2% of weekly church-goers who don't think God had anything to do with it. Are they conflicted internally? Do they attend church only because someone else is making them? Do they attend a church which doesn't believe in a specific God, but is more of a proponent of spirituality in general?)

Among monthly/almost-every-week church-goers:
God guided evolution: 47%
atheistic evolution: 9%
YEC: 41%

Among rare church-goers:
God guided evolution: 39%
atheistic evolution: 31%
YEC: 24%

Here's another survey, from 2012, with similar, but slightly different, results:

I am most familiar with those in the weekly church-goer group, where 60% believe in a young earth. I am a little surprised that number is so high, since among my friends and acquaintances, before I started homeschooling, I only had met 1 (yes, 1 single person) who seemed to be a strong proponent of YEC. Perhaps it's just because it wasn't a big deal amongst us. It wasn't a controversy - just one of those matters in the same category of how many angels fit on the head of a pin. I remember one Sunday School class, when I was in college, I believe, where we briefly mentioned evolution, and the consensus was that God could have created us any way He wanted to!

Since starting to homeschool, the number of YEC believers I have met (online or in person), has skyrocketed. It would be very interesting to see these survey results separated into homeschooler and non-homeschooler categories. I think YEC is a much bigger group among homeschoolers. Maybe 90% or so, but that's just a guess.

As an interesting side-note, I am a member of the yahoo group for the BFSU (Building Foundations for Scientific Understanding) curriculum, and there has recently been a big online discussion about young earth vs evolution. It was quite refreshing to read a discussion like this that wasn't filled with name-calling and accusations, with people willing to hear arguments for all sides. It was also refreshing to hear of many other Christian homeschoolers who are not YEC. We may not be vocal, but there really are some of us out here!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Potty Training #3

Ok, I promised my next post would be about potty training, so here it is. I have had the hardest time with my 3rd child, who happens to be a boy. The girls weren't that easy either, but I had begun to think that my youngest would never learn. He's already 3 years and 8 months, after all, and we're just now making some headway.

I started working with him over a year ago, but he definitely did not seem ready. He very obviously had no clue about what was happening when he had an accident. He had no bodily control at all, and I think it scared him. We would try for a day or so, and then I'd give up, since he so obviously wasn't ready. Maybe he would have gotten the hang of it earlier if I had been more persistent, but I didn't see any hope of progress being made at that time, not without a lot of one-on-one attention from me (like all-day attention), and I just didn't want to spend that much time on it at the expense of teaching my oldest, doing preschool with my middle, fixing meals, washing the dishes, sleeping, etc. It just wasn't going to happen, if I was to keep my sanity, and I didn't see any real reason to traumatize him.

So we waited. I tried again every now and then, without much sign of progress. It was kind of nice for a while, since whenever I took off his diaper, he would lay down on the changing pad and not move until I put another diaper on him! Good for when I needed him to calm down for a while and stop running around the house.

But just this past month, he has made a breakthrough. He stopped screaming when I put him on the toilet, he began to show more comprehension of the whole process, and he even was happy (ecstatic) when he successfully used the potty seat. It took quite a while to get him to stop sitting on the potty seat for hours on end, and to realize that he could "hold it" for a while. But it was nice that he really didn't want to make messes on the floor - I had to clean up after my girls a lot more than I am having to with my boy.

To make a long story short, he now wears underwear the entire morning until naptime, and most of the afternoon/evening between naptime and bedtime (as long as we don't go anywhere). He uses the toilet and not the potty seat. He still has accidents if I don't remind him to go (and often physically take him) to the bathroom. He still has a hard time with #2. And he still will only use the one toilet he has "practiced" on. But he is making so much progress! Now I just need to train him to put his clothes back on afterwards, and convince him that he can use different toilets. My middle child just recently learned how to last the entire night without a diaper, so we are rapidly approaching the diaper-free zone. I am so looking forward to no more diapers!

Friday, July 6, 2012

School in July

We started 2nd grade this week, my oldest daughter and I. It is so hot outside, the kids just can't play outside during the middle of the day more than a few minutes, and in the mornings and evenings there are too many mosquitoes. So it's really the best time of year to spend indoors doing schoolwork. We're just doing math, English, and reading, all with our new CLE curriculum. I plan to add in the rest in August - science, history, art, music, etc. I did give my daughter a piano lesson on Monday, though. It's about time we get that started on a more regular basis. I am also reading aloud from The Black Stallion, by Walter Farley. The Sonlight reading we did the past year was pretty much my daughter's favorite thing, so I figured we might as well keep reading - this time, a book of my choice. The Black Stallion books were among my favorite as a child, and I still have all of them. My daughter loves horses too, so it's a big hit with her so far.

But anyway, back to school. We will be participating in a music co-op this year, starting mid-August, so our Friday mornings are going to be pretty booked. We could do some schoolwork in the afternoons, but it would be nice to not have to, so we're going to try doing a 4-day week this year. The CLE material has 170 lessons in each class, so with a 4-day week, that comes out to 42.5 weeks. That still gives us about 10 weeks off, to take when we want, so I figure starting now, in July, will give us plenty of time to finish 2nd grade by next summer.

Our science for this year (mostly NOEO Physics 1) is already in a 4-day week format. For history, we're doing a combination of a couple Intellego unit studies, and reading aloud from Hillyer's A Child's History of the World, so I can make that however many days a week I want. 4 days should give us plenty of time to complete everything. For Bible, I am using Telling God's Story, Year 1, which I plan to do 3 days a week, adding in some reading from Leading Little Ones to God on the 4th day. The rest (hands-on art, artist and composer studies, gym, logic, etc.) are just 1-2 days a week, whenever we can fit them in.

My daughter balked a little at starting school again (not like we've had much time off anyway), but she seems to really like the format of the CLE LightUnits. It's new, different, and doesn't take as long as the BJU videos did. She really loves the math - especially the speed drills, to my surprise. She groaned when she first saw the half-page of problems, but when I started timing her, her eyes lit up and she took off! Wow, if I had known timing her would be encouraging, I would have done that a long time ago! We're just in the 1st LightUnit, which is review, so we'll see how things go when we get to harder material. I wanted to make sure and do the review unit, since we are switching curriculum, but so far, the 2nd grade level of CLE seems just right for her, in all subjects.

She doesn't like the English as well, probably since it's a bit longer, and we had a meltdown on the 2nd day, when we were working on vowel sounds. She really didn't learn them like she should have in 1st grade, since she refused to practice saying the sounds out loud with the video teacher. It was painful, but I made her work on pronouncing them for me this week (even when she doesn't know the word, which is her sticking point), and we're slowly overcoming her stubbornness. I had to have a good long talk with her about not being afraid to try, about the benefits of making mistakes, and about how rude it is to just sit there and not answer someone's question. I also told her about my own shyness and nervousness when I was in school, and how I overcame it, and I think that helped the most. We'll see.

I have my doubts about the spelling in CLE too. My daughter's worst area is spelling, and looking ahead, I don't see much that I think will help her. The basic list of words, activities with those words, and testing seems to not work well with my oldest. I'm thinking we may try Sequential Spelling soon. We'll see. I'll give CLE another week or so, and then maybe try out the samples of SS.

The reading will be challenging for her too, even though she scored so well in the standardized test we took earlier. She has a hard time remembering what she's read (especially the next day), and reading "between the lines." She can read it, and answer a few questions, but she doesn't seem to really process the reading and internalize it enough to really comprehend the big picture. The CLE material really brings that out, and I think will be very good for her skill improvement. I've also been reading a lot about Charlotte Mason's methods (I joined the Ambleside Online yahoo group to get pointers on artist and composer studies). The need for narrating in order to really comprehend a reading makes a lot of sense, and my daughter's inability to tell me what happened in a story we just read shows me that ability to narrate is a good indicator of comprehension. So maybe we'll use some narration every now and then for me to judge her comprehension (and to get her to understand that she needs to be able to re-tell at least the basics of a story).

Oh, I forgot - I am also planning on using Writing With Ease (level 1) with her this year. She's definitely not ready for level 2 yet. I think WWE will address some of her problem areas, including narration, and will round out the CLE material. It is also designed for a 4-day week, so we'll wait a few more weeks to start it.

Next blog - I think I'll discuss my youngest and his potty training progress! Stay tuned!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Swimming Lessons

We are taking a break from most school work this past week and this week, and all 3 kids are taking swimming lessons at the local city pool. It is going better than I expected! My daughters are both scared of water, or at least, they have been. My oldest daughter was supposed to take swimming lessons last year, but after the first 10 minutes or so, she refused to get in the water any more.

This year, she has stayed in the pool.

The instructors are so patient, and have been guiding her very gently into doing more. Today, she actually got off the steps (don't laugh - this is a big deal for her!) and let the instructor glide her around the pool. She also practiced what they call the monkey crawl, where they hang on to the edge of the pool and inch along one hand at a time to make their way to the nearest ladder to get out. And, she even dunked herself completely under water! And came up smiling! We have 3 more days left of lessons, and I am very happy with her progress.

I thought my younger daughter would do great in her lessons, with her adventurous, more outgoing nature, but last week was not the best. She cried and even screamed whenever they tried to carry her into the deeper water off the steps, and refused to do the monkey crawl. By Friday, she said she never wanted to go swimming again. However, she calmed down over the weekend, and today, she did not cry one single bit! And she let them float her around, and did the monkey crawl several times! I'm not sure what brought about this change, but she now says she can't wait for her next lesson.

My son, the youngest, has taken to the water like a fish. He absolutely loves it. The first day, he was scared, and it took a while for me to coax him into the pool, but after that, he has never looked back. He kicks away, holding onto a float board, does the monkey crawl all by himself back and forth, and is even starting to swim a few strokes all by himself.

The younger two are taking the preschool class together, while my oldest is in the level 1 class. I am very impressed with the instructors and the whole set-up, and it is even much cheaper than many of the other swim classes around (plus it's close to our house). The level 1 class is limited to 8 kids, and at the original time we signed up for, there were 8 kids in the class. The coordinator noticed how nervous Rebekah was, and how shy she seemed, and suggested that we change to the class 1 hour later, as there were only 3 in that class. So we did, and it has been perfect. The preschool class at this hour only has 3 kids, including my 2, so it is really nice too.

Now, if only the weather would cool down a bit - 101 is too hot for me, and they won't let me jump in the pool!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Telling God's Story

I bought Telling God's Story, Year One, a month or so ago, to use this coming school year for the main part of our Bible curriculum. I got the electronic pdf files from Peace Hill Press, which is the store front for the Well Trained Mind material. Telling God's Story is written by Peter Enns, and is planned to be a full 12 year Bible curriculum for 1st-12th grades. So far, he just has published years one and two. Even though my oldest is starting 2nd grade, I bought year one, for one reason, because year two hadn't quite come out yet. And for another reason, I wanted to start at the beginning of the series. And for yet another reason, I want to try and do it together with all my kids, and thought year one would be a good compromise for combining a 2nd grader and a kindergartner (my youngest, who will be 4, may just have to tag along).

I've been going through the lessons recently, writing out a lesson schedule to input into my Homeschool Tracker software. And I really like what I see in this material. I can see similarities to the Well-Trained Mind teaching style: some memorization (books of the Bible, names of the disciples), and some narration-type questions. I was very happily surprised to see some nice art history tied into the lessons too, with some beautiful religious art paintings to study. There's a little bit of music study too. But there are also a wide variety of other activities to go along with each of the 36 (plus 3 supplemental) lessons. Some activities are more suited for larger groups, but most are suitable for a single student, and even most of the larger group ones are going to be easy for me to use as is or to modify slightly for 3 students.

I plan to use this curriculum 3 times a week (with some reading from Leading Little Ones to God 1 day a week), so I've been picking out which activities for each week that I want to do - ones that I think will be suitable for my children's ages, and my inclinations (I don't really want to do many of the cooking ones, for example). For many of the weeks, I want to do all of them! We'll see if we have time. Most of them will be fine for all 3 of my kids, though my youngest might need a little help with some things, or some slight modifications. None of them will be too childish for my oldest either. So I think it was a good level to pick for my kids' ages.

I think they will enjoy most of the activities too. There are a lot of craft ideas (which my oldest really seems to like), the art and music history I mentioned, hiding or scavenger hunt type activities, mazes, secret messages, model building, prayer and service/ministry ideas, and even science experiments. They probably won't like the memory work, and my younger 2 may not be up to that, but I think it will be very good for my oldest to try. The wide variety of activities should keep my kids' interest, and I think will also drive in the message from the story. I plan to read the story part (in the instructor's guide) and let them color the story picture on day 1. Then we'll do 1-2 activities each on the other 2 days.

I plan to start the beginning of August, so I'm sure I'll write more after we've been using it a while.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Missionary Games

I overheard my girls playing today with the Legos and cars that are always piled on our "train" table. I was reading some things at my desk, so it only gradually dawned on me what they were playing. They were pretending to be missionaries (or pretending that their cars were missionaries, I'm not sure). My oldest was saying something about "but no one here is a Christian" while my youngest was trying to tell everyone (or every car and Lego man) about Jesus.

It made me smile, that's for sure! Whether it's due to the GAs and Mission Friends classes at church, or the missionary biography stories we've been reading for school (mostly from Hero Tales), or a combination of everything, missionary work is on their minds. I had just been telling my oldest, at her bedtime last night, about an article I had recently read. It told of a missionary to a small village in a remote area, where not only was no one a Christian, but they were overtly hostile toward Christians. But thanks to months of prayer, and God's miraculous healing power, a church was born there, with 35 or more new Christians. They began to make a huge difference in the village, where drunkenness and spirit (demon) worship had been common.

I have really ended up liking the stories in Hero Tales, which was suggested by Sonlight, in an older version of Core A. They are amazing stories, and make me quite emotional sometimes, which makes them hard to finish reading aloud. I wasn't sure how much my oldest was getting out of them, but I guess she really is listening.

I like the title of the book too - Hero Tales. Missionaries really are the type of heroes I want my children to admire, and perhaps emulate. How hard it is in our culture to imagine giving up the little luxuries that we take for granted (or even big ones, like running water), to live in another culture, with little income, with no thought for career advancement (at least here on Earth). How rare it is for someone to aim for such a life, instead of a career as a lawyer, engineer, computer specialist, scientist, doctor, athlete, etc., with the accompanying big house, 2+ cars, etc. (And how many parents truly want that for their child? Do I, really, when I really think about it? I'm reminded of the verse where Jesus said it was harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.) How hard it is to go through with such a life, instead of just thinking that being a missionary would be "neat." Perhaps the drive to become a missionary starts now, in childhood, and with continued exposure to the real-life miracles that those who are fully committed to Christ may see every day. Perhaps such an emphasis might even change the parent....

Monday, June 4, 2012

Music Co-op

I went to an informational meeting tonight for a new music co-op that is starting up in our area. There is another music co-op about 45 minutes away from us that I have been contemplating for over a year now, ever since we started homeschooling. Music is such an important part of my life that finding some sort of music group for my kids to join has been near the top of my to-do list. (Music really needs to be done in a group setting, at least for some of the time.) But this other co-op would be quite a drive for every Friday, 45 minutes each way (especially starting at 8:30 in the morning). Plus, my younger kids were really too young still to do much besides stay in the nursery. So we didn't join this past year.

Then, just this past month, I got a surprise email announcing this new music co-op! (I actually mentioned it a couple posts ago too.) Right down the road from us! Maybe 10-15 minutes away. It is an offshoot of the first music co-op, as many more people were interested in the co-op, but just weren't willing to make the drive. I was so happy! This really just seems perfect for us. They plan to offer choir, band (and recorder and rhythm band for younger ones), music theory, sectionals (like for woodwinds, brass, etc. - once the kids get old enough to pick an instrument), plus other stuff in the afternoons, like drama. From the meeting tonight, it sounds like we will have plenty of interest, and a good number of qualified teachers. This is a co-op, so the parents do the teaching (and other jobs, wherever their abilities are a good fit), which makes the cost considerably less than a group where you just drop off your kids.

I have not been too interested in other co-ops, as I don't really want to teach, and I usually don't like at least some of the curriculum choices of most co-ops. I know it would be good for my kids to be in a class with other kids, at least some of the time, for social opportunities as well as for learning how to participate in a classroom setting (and to spend some time away from Mom!). But I really didn't want to sign up for any of the "core" educational co-ops available locally. If I were going to "out-source" any academic classes, I'd choose to send them to a University-Model school or a class here or there, where I could drop them off and go run errands myself.

But a music co-op - that's something different! No problems with curriculum I don't like. And it sounds like my contribution to the co-op will be playing the piano for the older choir, maybe organizing the music library, and maybe teaching a theory class. I wouldn't mind playing the piano for various groups all day, if they'd let me! What a perfect fit! It will be a big chunk of time, of course - all morning every Friday (we don't plan to do the afternoon classes). But I think with our curriculum choices for next year, that won't be a problem, especially while my kids are all still so young (and don't have heavy course loads).

Now, I only hope that my kids will all love it as much as I know I will!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Test Results

I really need to get back to posting more often. I got out of the habit, and now I tend to just not think about it. Even though I have plenty of things I could write about!

So, to start with tonight, I'll update you on my 1st grader's standardized test experience. We did the test over 3 days, doing 2-3 sections a day. It really didn't take too long, and my daughter ended up enjoying it too. She wants to do it again now! I made sure she knew that some of the questions were meant to be too hard for her to answer, and that it was mostly just for fun, for us to see how much ahead of 1st grade work she really was, and how much she had learned. It was interesting to me, too, to see what kinds of questions they asked, since that gave me an idea of what "standard" 1st grade students were supposed to know. The social studies and science questions were particularly interesting, since those topics are more random really, than the basics of math and reading. I knew that we hadn't covered exactly the same things as were on the test, so I wasn't worried about her scores in those areas. I know that we will get to everything in time, whether or not we do it in the same order as public schools.

The main area of interest to me, as far as her score goes, was reading. That is really the biggest thing for 1st grade, and Rebekah did excellent - better than I expected. The test placed her at a 2.8 grade level, which is the 8th month of 2nd grade (and the 90th percentile). Her vocabulary and listening scores were also extremely good. Her spelling, on the other hand.... Well, I already knew spelling was one of her weaker areas. We'll be trying a different approach for 2nd grade.

Her math was not as good as I'd like either, but it was obvious that her main difficulty was memorizing her basic addition facts. I have not pushed her with flash card drills nearly enough, since she protests them so much, and she didn't get enough fact review with her math curriculum this past year. Again, this is an area we'll be doing differently for 2nd grade.

For science, she did not score very high, and that bugs me a bit, since science is the one subject I like the best, but I know it's just because we covered different topics than were on the test. She left too many blank on those questions - not wrong answers, just unknown to her. Then for social studies, surprisingly, she scored the best of all the subjects, coming in with a grade equivalent of 3.2, and ranking at the 94th percentile.

So, overall, combining all the subjects, she ranked comfortably above average, with a grade equivalent of 2.1. Considering that she still had almost 2 months left of 1st grade material to cover when we took the test, I'm pleased with that!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Next Year's Curriculum

I just updated my Curriculum Choices page, with our probable lineup for next school year. It looks pretty busy, now that I write it all down. But not all of it is to be done at the same time, especially in science and history. Some of the choices there are only a couple months long. I plan to give the kids a few weeks off when we finish this year's work (probably not until the end of June, since we will be taking off a week for VBS first). Then we'll just move on to next year's stuff. We plan to take some time off in September too, for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary (they are planning for us all to go to Disneyworld together!).

I'm not sure about P.E. for next year. My middle child said earlier that she didn't want to do gymnastics anymore, but then the next time I asked her, she did still! My oldest wants to take ballet, and my middle one kind of does too. So we'll just see how schedules and money goes.

I also just heard about a brand new music co-op that is starting up this fall, almost right down the street from us! I am really excited about that! The other music co-op in the area that I really liked is about a 45 minute drive away, one way. This one is almost the same in content, but so much closer (about a 10-15 minute drive, actually). So I will have to decide whether we can do that or not. It would take up all Friday morning, every week. I know I would love to do that much music, but I'm not sure about the kids. We'll see.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Video Lessons for Early Elementary

I wrote earlier (here) that I was planning on not using BJU video classes next year, mainly because of disagreeing with some of their worldview. I wanted to add my impressions of the video format in general though. We all really loved having the videos at first. It was new, fun, and my daughter loved being able to do it all on her own (without me telling her what to do, in particular).

After a few months (or maybe less), she began to grow tired of it, though. We weren't doing all the 1st grade level classes (not science, and not history, except a few lessons here and there just for fun), but even so, it made for a long day for a 1st grader. As time went on, I found that I had to be present, sitting right next to her, more and more of the time to make sure she responded to the teacher's questions, paused the program if needed, and didn't just sit there waiting to hear the answer. The type of responses I'm talking about is pronouncing new phonemes, word lists, math fact drills, and things like that. I can understand just thinking of the answers to comprehension questions in her head, but for phonics, she really needed to say the words out loud to learn the vowel sounds, digraphs, etc. Unfortunately, I couldn't be there all the time to sit through the videos with her, since they took a good 3-4 hours a day, at a minimum, and I had 2 other smaller children to take care of. At times, I would come by to check on her, and find her sitting on the other side of the room playing with her toys while the video ran on! Maybe she still heard some of it, but I know it wasn't as much as I wanted her to hear. I discovered that when the work got difficult for her, she tended to tune out, and just quit trying. If she can't do something perfectly, she doesn't like to even try (such a perfectionist!). Her inability to consistently and correctly identify vowel sounds (long vs. short, for example) showed me that she really needed to focus on this more.

We've been working on it more, lately, and I've been sitting in on the phonics portions more, but this has just shown me that video lessons, without any enforced interaction, is not always the best option for younger students. For older students, I would say that their attitude needs to be adjusted, and they should be expected to pay better attention. But for younger students, they are still learning how to learn, and how to behave properly and be responsible for themselves, and the learning itself should be emphasized more than study skills at this critical time. Responsibility is a whole other topic, and is still very much a work in progress at this age.

My middle child has also been doing some video lessons. She likes them, and begs to do them sometimes - but then gets tired of them halfway through and wanders off. She's still a bit too young for such long lessons. So I split them up some, and teach some on my own. But overall, I'm thinking she will definitely do better, in the long run, with direct teaching too, and not the videos. I am realizing that, for her, the videos actually move too slow. She catches on really fast, and is able to move much faster than the videos teach.

Some young students will do very well with video lessons, I'm sure, but not all. I think online/software lessons, which require interaction to move forward, might be a better choice for children like my oldest daughter. But what is even better for her, I'm finding, is direct interaction with me. I could still use the videos and then reinforce or reteach what she needs more work on, but it's much more efficient and effective to just do the teaching myself in the first place. I've been teaching more and more of her classes myself, directly from the teacher's editions, instead of using the videos, and she is learning much better, and the lessons take less time. The video lessons have great amenities (skits, images, audio clips, skilled teachers, etc.), but they are not customized for your student. The video doesn't stop to wait for replies, or focus on just the area your child needs extra work. Just like a real classroom - the video is geared toward the average student (perhaps slightly above average, in the case of BJU videos, but still geared toward one particular level of student). Homeschooling, on the other hand, can let you tailor the teaching specifically to your child.

I hate to be so critical of the videos, since they were so wonderful for us at first. Watching those teachers has really helped me learn to teach better. Having video teachers really lessened the burden on me, too, at a time when I was getting burned out by the neediness of my younger children, the realization of what homeschooling was really going to be like, and by the resistance of my oldest to my (admittedly poor) teaching methods.

But now, my oldest can read sufficiently well to read many of her lessons on her own, which will go a long way toward satisfying her need for independence. My younger children are older now, can play quietly on their own for longer amounts of time, and require less of my continual presence. And I have learned a lot about teaching, child psychology, curriculum, and other things. I am excited about the curriculum we are planning to use for next year! More on that later....

Sunday, April 22, 2012


My firstborn, Rebekah, was baptized today! She became a Christian last year, when she asked Jesus to forgive her sins, and to come into her heart, promising to follow Him. She went forward at the end of the service at our church, to tell the pastor and the congregation. However, being only 5, she was a little too nervous to declare her belief very loudly, and while she became a member of the church that day, we decided to wait on baptism for a while. We, and the pastor, talked with her quite a bit, and were convinced that she understood enough to have made her decision. But we told her she could wait until whenever she felt comfortable enough to be baptized. (She is also afraid of being under water, so we figured it would go more smoothly when she was older.)

She had talked and talked about waiting until she turned 7 (which isn't until July), but last month, after another person was baptized, Rebekah told us that she was ready. My in-laws were planning a visit in a few weeks, so we decided that weekend would be a perfect time for it. We met with the pastor, visited the baptismal, practiced at home, and so this morning, Rebekah was baptized. She was nervous, but was very brave, and was so excited afterwards that she couldn't stop talking and hugging everyone she met!

It has been a nervous week this past week, though. My dad had to make a trip to the emergency room last Monday night, and was admitted to the hospital for 2 days. They think he had a TIA (or "mini-stroke"), but he recovered very quickly, and was able to come to our church today for the baptism. They changed my dad's medication again, so hopefully he won't have any more episodes like this one.

My in-laws will be here this whole week, and they will be keeping my 2 little ones under control while I give Rebekah her first standardized test - the IOWA 1st grade level test. Homeschoolers are not required to give standardized tests here in Texas, but I wanted to anyway, for my own knowledge. We'll see how she's doing, after almost 2 years of school, 1.5 of those being homeschooled. I have a feeling she's going to do great!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Online Preschool Games

We've been trying out some online fun stuff lately, mostly for my younger two, though my 6-year-old has been enjoying them just as much. First, I went ahead and subscribed for the year to More Starfall, which is an extension of the free Starfall website. For $35/year, you get a lot more math, and some additional phonics and books and nursery rhymes and other neat things, for up to 3 simultaneous users.

The kids have loved it! My 4-year-old was doing all the addition games, and she absolutely loved the geometry - shapes and symmetry and puzzles. I have discovered that she really has a good eye for geometrical design.  And my 3-year-old has been equally fascinated by the site (he has just recently - finally - made the connection that the mouse controls the cursor on the screen, so he is so eager to try out everything he can on the computer now). In fact, the other day he started running around the house counting to 6 over and over again at the top of his lungs! This is my boy who, though I suspect he has known many of his letters and numbers for a year now, has refused to recite them to me out loud. And my 6-year-old also has found things to challenge her on the site.

So More Starfall is definitely a success.

We also signed up for a 1-month free trial for ABCMouse. This is mostly for preschoolers, as my 6-year-old finds even the highest level a little too easy. She still likes playing it though, as do the other 2. What they mostly like, though, is spending their tickets and playing with their hamsters. The way ABCMouse works is that for each activity the student completes, they get a certain amount of tickets, which they can then use to go shopping. The more tickets they have, the better things they can get (yes, just like real money). I think my kids aren't too enthused about many of the activities, but they really like spending their tickets. The songs in the music activities are too long for their attention spans, usually. They do like the puzzles and the coloring activities, but they are a bit repetitive. Most of the time, I find my 4-year-old sitting there staring at her hamsters as they roam through her extensive collection of tubes and cages. She has "bought" more tubes than she has room for on the screen, but she keeps buying more! They also try to con me into doing activities for them, to earn them more tickets for a particular item.

One of the issues I have with the program is that the kids can switch users too easily, and they end up playing as their brother or sister without permission, messing up their sequence of activities. Also, they can change their own level, instead of staying on the path for their age and ability. I've even gotten 2 emails trying to confirm I wanted to change my password since somehow, one of the kids ended up trying to sign in as me!

So I probably won't continue using ABCMouse after the trial period. I think the kids learn more on Starfall, and they've stopped using that since they prefer playing with their hamsters! What I wish is that I could find a similar hamster game (for free, preferably, or else for just a 1-time price) that lets them try out different cage configurations without all the tickets. Then that could be their reward after a certain amount of time playing Starfall or doing other school work!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Integrated Worldview

One of BJU's strong points is how integrated their curriculum is. Their classes sometimes cover the same theme at the same time, history tidbits are described in English class, science is mentioned in reading, Bible study is incorporated into most classes, and so on. Due to this, if you use all their classes together, your student will get more than the sum of the parts: extra cultural information is shared throughout their day, classes reinforce each other, and a broad spectrum of knowledge is imparted. It's like your student is attending a school where all the teachers are working together to provide a cohesive and complete learning experience throughout the whole year.

However, this is only wonderful primarily if you share the same worldview as BJU. With their worldview scattered throughout every class, your student will encounter those beliefs everywhere. I had known from the start that I disagreed with BJU in a few key points (young-earth beliefs being the primary one), but thought that if I just skipped the science classes and some of the history classes, I could avoid that belief. I'm finding more and more that this is not going to be the case. I've previewed some of the books for later grades at our local Mardel's store, and have seen young-earth aspects in 4th grade handwriting, 5th grade reading, etc. With the videos, I can never be sure if the teachers might mention something else I disagree with, without having to prescreen all the videos, which I don't have the time or inclination to do. I have been reading more and more issues that others have with BJU (race relationships, disapproval of Catholics, etc.), and find that I have some of these other issues too.

For many people, a few young-earth comments isn't a big deal, but it is to me. It's just like those who don't want their child to be taught that evolution is true (or fill in the blank with any other hot topic you think is wrong), especially in their early years. That's one of the reasons we homeschool instead of sending our children to an outside teacher, whose daily comments (as well as those of the other students) are out of our control and even knowledge. Of course, you can always use it as a teaching experience, discussing with your child why you don't agree with that teaching, but with the BJU videos, these year-long teachers are becoming very close to your student (even if the relationship is one-sided). They look up to these teachers, enjoy them, and trust that they are teaching them the truth. To have to say later that, yes, your teacher said that, but she was wrong - well, that just undermines that teacher's authority and your student may never trust them again (or might even side with the teacher and say that you - the parent - are wrong!). With a textbook or workbook, or a one-time teacher who has not created a relationship with your student, it is much easier to contradict it/them without any detrimental effects.

Now if you do agree with BJU's worldview, then their distance learning classes really are wonderful. I wish there were a company producing such high quality material where everything did agree with my own worldview! But alas, there isn't.

I will continue using the videos for the rest of 1st grade, pre-screening as we go and skipping a few things here and there, but after that, we will try something different, something more eclectic. I have thought of teaching the BJU material myself, just eliminating any aspects that I disagree with, but as I have noted earlier, their material is very teacher-intensive, and I need a more independent curriculum.

I struggled a lot with my oldest daughter for kindergarten and early 1st grade, as that is a time that needs a high level of teacher interaction. BJU 1st grade videos were a lifesaver for us at that time. But now that she can read so much better (BJU did do a wonderful job of teaching her to read - and I know she will just get better in the remaining months we have with 1st grade), we have many more options for independent learning. I think that was what made the biggest difference in her attitude - being able to do school on her own more, without me hovering over her continually. So I will look for material that will allow her to be somewhat independent for at least some of her classes - such as CLE for English, and Math Mammoth for math, perhaps adding in videos from Discovery Education to add interest and some of the "extra-curricular tidbits of interest" that we got from the BJU videos.

For my younger ones, I'm not sure what I'll do, since I do now have the teacher's manuals for BJU K5 and 1st grade. Maybe I'll just use them (we're still doing K5 videos with my middle child now), maybe we'll do a combination of things. I'll have to wait and see what their learning styles are like, I guess.

More to come later, on our continuing saga of curriculum choices!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Science: teeth and tomatoes

Last Sunday, my oldest daughter's top front tooth finally came out. It has been wiggly for at least 5 months. I had tried to pull it out a few times, but to no avail. But Sunday morning after church, as we were searching for my younger daughter's jacket in various rooms in the children's building, Rebekah suddenly exclaimed loudly. When I turned to her, she was holding out her tooth in the palm of her hand. After a moment of shock, staring at her tooth, she ran to go show it to all the teachers still in the building. Such excitement! And yes, we did find my other daughter's jacket too.

The reason I mention this in relation to science is that we just so happened to have scheduled a study of teeth for the following week for science! Really! Perfect timing. 5 months, and then the day before we start to study teeth, it falls out. She was very attentive during her science lessons, I have to say.

On another, seemingly unrelated note, I was recently drying off my son in the bathroom after his bath, when he suddenly peered into the draining bathtub and pointed, exclaiming, "Tomato!" I frowned, and then leaned over to look, since we do have some plastic tomato slices that came with our kitchen play set. I didn't remember him bringing one into bath time to play, but I never know what he might sneak in without my notice. I was hoping it wasn't a real tomato.

I saw nothing, however, but after a moment, Ryan again exclaimed, "Tomato!" and pointed right at the drain. I looked again, more closely, and then I finally figured out what he was saying. Not "tomato," but "tornado." He saw a little waterspout that had formed as the bath water drained out.

I was quite impressed. A few weeks earlier, we had studied tornadoes, and did the experiment with the 2 2-liter coke bottles, where you attach them together, and have one drain into the other, swirling the water around to start a little "tornado" motion. I couldn't get it to work too well, since our connection was leaky, but we got it to work a little, and then we all watched a more professional demonstration on YouTube. Ryan was attentive most of the time, but I didn't think he really understood that much - after all, he's only 3. I really just talked to the girls as I explained things, letting Ryan hover in the background. He didn't even have a very good view. But he apparently paid more attention than I had thought. He remembered it a week or so later, plus applied it to a totally different activity - draining the bathtub.

I guess I should include him more often in our science lessons!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Combining Math and Exercise

As I sit here finishing my breakfast, my oldest daughter is doing math and P.E.  At the same time.  She has a balloon and is tossing it up in the air, trying to catch it before it hits the floor. Each time she catches it, she counts. She's on 76 right now. Now, if I had suggested she do something like this, I don't know if she would have, but since she came up with the "game" on her own, she's going at it full power. It's a bit noisy, but hey, at least I have time to finish my breakfast and write a short blog post!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

NPH and the Soul

I haven't written for a while, as my father has been going through some very serious health issues. He was diagnosed with a somewhat uncommon ailment called NPH, which is a form of hydrocephalus that causes symptoms mimicking Parkinson's Disease and dementia. His health started declining very rapidly, but he's doing much better now, after shunt surgery. I think my parents' lifestyle will still be changing somewhat, due to lingering effects of NPH. Fortunately, they live very close to us, so we are trying to help as much as possible.

I have found that it is difficult having small children to care for at the same time as your parents begin to need additional help as well. One of the drawbacks of having children late in life.... It is not very fun to have to choose between spending time caring for your preschoolers and spending time caring for your parents.

My dad's illness has also made me contemplate how much reliance we place on our minds. We tend to assume that our thoughts are our own, and that we are in charge of how cleverly we can think about things. We may accept that God (or "nature") gave us our inborn level of intelligence, but claim that we have taken over from there. (This is especially true for those who really are quite clever, or who are of above-average intelligence, and tends to lead toward a sense of superiority.) We take pride in our logic. Perhaps to the point of idolizing it?

I think we sometimes equate our minds and thoughts with our soul, and perhaps that is (one reason) why it can be so terrifying to begin to lose control of your mind (and perhaps why we shy away from those with mental disabilities?). But our souls are not quite the same as our physical brains and conscious thoughts. Our souls are more than that. Our souls will outlast our brains. Also, we may trust that God is in control of large events - things we can't control - like the weather, and distant wars, but we rarely think of Him as being in control of our own minds.  Yes, He gives us plenty of chances to make our own decisions, but ultimately, He is in control of our minds just as much as the rest of our health. I have thought often lately of the temporary insanity of King Nebuchadnezzar described in Daniel 4.

So what conclusion can I draw from all this, as a homeschooler? No conclusion, really, but just a reminder that in educating our children, we must keep in mind the bigger picture of educating, or growing, the souls of our children, and not just their intellects. Our minds, the intellectual towers of this world, our philosophies, and even our hermeneutics, apologetics, and theologies, will fade away, but God will remain.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Thinking about 2nd grade already

I keep going back and forth on whether I'll use the BJU videos for 2nd grade next year. They are really nice, but they do seem to take a long time, and they are expensive. Rebekah has mostly really loved them, but occasionally she gets bogged down and wants a break. I'm sure that will happen with any curriculum, but it set me to thinking about alternatives.

I mostly think about using Rod & Staff for English and spelling, maybe Sonlight Language Arts for some more gentle creative writing prompts (with BJU, Rebekah is supposed to write something every day, and while she doesn't really complain most of the time, that seems a bit much for 1st grade for me - though I'm sure it is good for stretching her abilities.). We'd do Sonlight grade 2 readers and then either Rod & Staff 2nd grade phonics or else just Explode the Code. For handwriting, we'll be learning cursive in 2nd grade, so I have considered either just doing BJU handwriting myself, without the videos, or else going back to Reason for Handwriting. For math, I'd probably still get the BJU videos a la carte, since teaching this level of math still frustrates me too much. For history, I'd do some Intellego units on economics and government, and maybe geography, since I plan to wait until my youngest is older before moving on to Sonlight Core B. For science, we're doing NOEO Physics 1 and Intellego K-2 Astronomy no matter what I choose for everything else, since I already have those 2, and I'm planning on waiting to start BFSU until my youngest is older.

But I mostly think about those alternatives when I'm just thinking about teaching my oldest, and forgetting momentarily that I have 2 younger children who are going to be learning to read soon. I mostly think about those alternatives when all the children are in another room, and it's nice and peacefully quiet. When they all come back in, and I start rushing from one child to the next, with one request for help after another, I quickly return to thinking the BJU videos are the best bet for 2nd grade. I think about how Rebekah really loves the color workbook pages much better than any of the black and white ones we tried before BJU. I think about how stubborn Rebekah got with me teaching her handwriting, and how much smoother things went after we started the videos (really with all English subjects, and math). I realize that if I get videos for math and handwriting, then I might as well get the full grade. Three a la carte classes are more expensive then the full grade, and plus I can resell the things I don't use (and the ones I do use later). I think about how many extra facts and demonstrations and live examples are given in the videos, and how many times I hear Rebekah laughing or giggling while she's watching them. I also figured out that, based on my teaching time estimates, the videos won't really take any longer than me teaching what I want for grammar (15 minutes), spelling (15 minutes), handwriting (15 minutes), and math (30 minutes). Math is really the only one that has much work to do outside the video ("homework," so to speak). Oh, and the Bible class is just 15 minutes, and Rebekah loves learning the hymns they do in the videos.

So, I'm pretty sure what I'll do is use the videos for math, Bible, handwriting, spelling, English (grammar/writing), and just do portions of the reading videos (maybe just the Skill Station days, which cover most of the phonics we'll need). We will probably read many of the stories in the BJU 2nd grade readers on our own, doing the worksheets if I think they're valuable. Reading is the long video - 30 minutes - plus extra time for silent reading, etc. - that's the one that drags Rebekah down this year. I think Rebekah does best when the reading is fun and interesting and on her own - she rebels with the forced reading and drawn-out analysis of each story done in the BJU videos. I think literary analysis (really just detailed discussion) can wait at least a few grades for her. I've read people saying that the way reading is taught in the BJU videos is essential to developing a great reader, but I don't think that is going to be true for Rebekah. I hate to give up all the interesting video clips about different topics that show up in reading, but we can't do everything. Maybe we'll just fast forward to any interesting clips. Then I already have most of the Sonlight grade 2 readers, so those will be for extra reading, with maybe just a few oral comprehension questions. Then for science and history, I'll do what I described above: NOEO physics and Intellego astronomy, and then some economics, government, and geography unit studies.

As for my 2nd born, she tells me she prefers just doing worksheets to watching any videos. And she's quick enough to pick up on things pretty easily, so I think she will be much less stubborn than my oldest to teach! She's been playing the free online math games I bookmarked for my oldest, and already she's able to do simple addition. As for my youngest, I'm still trying to get him to listen well enough to follow directions! Who knows what learning style he will have? Maybe I'll get a chance to use Rod & Staff with one of them after all.