Friday, November 22, 2013


I am so thankful that my entire family approves of our decision to homeschool our kids. I read about others who face opposition and negativity from the grandparents, siblings, even spouses. I read about divorced parents where one actually presses charges against the other over homeschooling. I read about grandparents that sue for custody over homeschooling. I read about lost relationships, broken ties and angry words among family members, just over homeschooling.

I didn't start out planning to homeschool. I sent my oldest to public kindergarten over 3 years ago, and breathed a sigh of relief! None of my family members tried to convince me to homeschool. None of them mentioned it really.

But we all apparently had thoughts about it in the back of our minds. I had considered it since my firstborn was born. It was an option. We had quite a few friends and neighbors who homeschooled. Our school district wasn't the best, and I thought maybe after a few years of public school, we'd bring them home, before they got to the dreaded middle school years with all that peer pressure. "Later" just turned out to be earlier than I had thought.

When I discussed it with my husband, he just nodded and started coming up with more and more reasons to homeschool.

When I told my parents, they smiled broadly and after a few conversations about how to do it, whether I would be ok with delaying my other career plans, and asking when they could help, we were set.

When I told the church choir about our schooling plans during prayer time, I don't know how many people said, "Good for you!" - and prayed for us.

When I told my in-laws (with a little trepidation, I have to admit), my mother-in-law smiled and admitted, "I've been praying you would decide to homeschool," despite never having mentioned it to me before.

My brother-in-law and his wife thought it was a great idea. My brother and his girlfriend thought it was great. No one spoke in condemnation of it, no one told me it was a bad idea, no one discouraged me. Sure, some probably had some doubts and concerns, and some mentioned other cases they had heard of which didn't turn out very well, but I didn't feel any strong negativity toward our decision. Maybe it helped that I have more education than most public school teachers, in a variety of fields. Maybe it helped that I was also a good student and a life-long learner.

But whatever the cause, whatever the background of all my family members that made them view homeschooling in a positive light (none of whom were ever homeschooled themselves) - I am just thankful. It makes it so much easier. And it makes it so much easier when they compliment the kids' progress every now and then, send little notes of encouragement, and tell me how glad they are we're still homeschooling. That can turn a negative, poor, sad day (when I'm considering packing them off to school somewhere) into a happy, relieved, positive day (when I remember how lucky I am to be able to homeschool).

I am very blessed to have such a supportive environment, among family and among friends and neighbors. I have never had anyone tell me I'm crazy or that my kids will turn out terrible. The store clerks just smile and chat - one even told my daughter that the smartest people she knows were homeschooled. One told me that she's trying to convince her grown daughter to homeschool her kids, and asked me about support groups in the area. Even the public school teacher and counselor were very encouraging when I withdrew my oldest. Maybe God knows I needed all this positivity to make the decision He wanted me to make. Whatever the reason, I am thankful.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

All About Spelling

I just looked through my earlier posts, trying to see if I had ever written about the spelling I'm doing with my oldest this year, and didn't see anything. How can that be? We are really doing good with spelling this year, for the first time.

Spelling has been my oldest's bane since 1st grade. We've used curriculum from Evan-Moor, BJU Press, CLE, Sequential Spelling, Rod & Staff - nothing really worked well. She liked the stories that went along with BJU, but she still couldn't spell and hated to write since she worried too much about spelling things wrong. She really liked Sequential Spelling, at first. But after about 20 lessons or so, she had decided it was boring, and she still couldn't spell the words we had "learned" at the beginning - the patterns didn't really click with her, and she couldn't remember them apart from the sequence in the lessons. I'd have to correct her on the first word, and then she'd get a few correct - until the pattern changed again. Now, Sequential Spelling might be a perfect fit for my middle child, with her excellent visual memory, but it wasn't for my oldest.

I had read about All About Spelling (AAS), and seen so many good reviews, but it was expensive, and seemed a bit overkill to me, what with all the letter tiles and "accessories." I also didn't like how teacher-intensive it was. I wanted independent! I didn't think Rebekah was dyslexic (which AAS is supposedly really good for helping) - she reads well above grade level, and loves reading. But after everything else seemed to be not working, I decided to splurge and try it for 3rd grade.

It is amazing! Rebekah's spelling has improved drastically, and she loves our spelling lessons! I'm even enjoying them, and not minding how teacher-intensive they are. If she starts to misspell something when writing for other subjects, I just have to remind her to sound it out like in our spelling lessons, and she can usually figure it out. She will write more now, with less fear of misspelling things (though her writing level is not as high as I'd like it - we may be focusing on that area next!). We are almost through with Level 1 of AAS, and I just ordered Level 2. We should be able to get through that by the end of the year, I believe, and she will be basically at grade level then. You can start AAS in 1st grade, but I think it might be better to wait until the child can read at a 1st grade level, thus doing Level 1 in 2nd grade, Level 2 in 3rd, etc. But every child will be different, I'm sure. AAS is designed for one-on-one teaching, going at the speed the student needs, and not just blasting ahead with one spelling list a week, like so many other methods.

AAS teaches the rules about why things are spelled the way they are, and that is apparently what my daughter needed to learn. I've always been an excellent speller, but I didn't know these rules - I just spell things the way they look right, and had no idea spelling followed rules so much! So I'm learning too.

It's great for reinforcing phonics too. Rebekah needed some reinforcing on that, since her earlier phonics lessons didn't seem to stick. It's like a lightbulb went on, now that she's hearing the sounds and connecting them with the correct letters. Before, she just seemed to draw a blank when she had to figure out what letter was making a particular sound. She could go the other direction  easily - from written letter to sound - but had a terrible time going from the sound to the correct letter. AAS starts with learning all the sounds the letters make, getting into blends and digraphs later. That's one reason I think it might be best to wait until after a child has learned both short and long vowel sounds, and possibly other sounds (like /ah/), before starting AAS, since AAS starts with teaching that "a" makes 3 sounds.

As for the teacher-intensive part, I've finally accepted that Rebekah really does so much better with me teaching her directly, and is not really ready for independent work in many areas. I had dreams at first (fantasies, maybe) of just setting work in front of her and having her learn on her own, self-taught, or video-taught, or whatever. Yeah, well, that didn't work. I've had to let go of my desire to do my own thing all morning, and buckle down to this teaching stuff. That's my job, after all! And a very rewarding job. And it will not last forever. Rebekah is already a voracious reader, and seeks out information about everything. Before long, she'll be going full-steam ahead on her own, and never looking back.

And, hopefully, spelling things correctly.

Saturday, November 9, 2013


Earlier this week, while we (all the kids and I) were driving around to various activities, we saw a big 18-wheeler truck with one of those bigger-than-life-size images of food plastered onto the side. This one was for spinach pizza. No, it wasn't close to lunch time or dinner time - it was early morning, actually - but it still made me hungry. My middle child (the one who eats vegetables) also thought it looked wonderful. The other kids - not so much.

We just happened to be going to the grocery store later that day, and I just happened to see a box of frozen spinach pizza. So I bought it. It wasn't the same brand as we saw on the truck, but with the encouragement of my daughter, we decided to try it out. Normally, our pizzas have pepperoni, sausage, bacon, more pepperoni, etc. But a vegetarian pizza sounded good for a change.

And it was absolutely one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten! Only my middle daughter and I ate it, but that was fine - more for us! So I thought I'd write a blog post about it, if you would like to try it out too. It came from a company just called Amy's Kitchen. They claim to be the nation's leading natural (vegetarian) frozen food brand. I just may have to try some more of their stuff...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Birthday Time!

My middle child turned 6 two days ago, and my youngest child turns 5 today. So we had their party the day between their birthdays this year. We went to the Little Gym for their party, since they love gymnastics (and so I wouldn't have to clean house...). Here's a bunch of pictures.

The cake and cupcakes:

Play Time:

Running across the beam

And jump!

Balance walking

Two at once

 Hula Hoop moves:

Moving too fast to capture

All tuckered out

Big sister gets to swing too: 

Cake Time:

Dig in!

 Time for a few presents: