Tuesday, August 26, 2008


A Hannah Toucan
Art inspired by the book she was writing before the book she is writing now.
She says we are going to print actual books of teh book she is writing now.
You know. Self-publishing at lulu.com!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Week 3 --- Check!

We made it through week three. Seems like with all the rain this week, we wanted to be lazy and do things like READ, and create ART and NAP all day. It was hard to concentrate!

If Education is an Atmosphere, then everyone in this homeschool should be learning, right? Even dear old mom! That's me! The girls are not interested in blogging, but I can tell you what I learned this week!

--> Be Who You Are. Tara asked me not to stop reading from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. We're rather getting into it! Who knew it was so funny??? I guess people who read it. Ok, dumb question. Moving on. This week we learned that Viola is dressing up as a boy named Cicero and is working as a page for Count Orsino. Viola/Cicero loves Orsino. Orsino loves Olivia. And Olivia loves Cicero, not knowing he is really Viola, a chick. How humiliating would that be? MORAL: There are always consequences when you pretend to be someone you are not, negative consequences.

--> Choose Your Associates Well. In History we learned about Tecumseh, a Native American who tried to rally all of the Indian Nations to rise up against the new Americans (by now an independent nation from Britain). Tecumseh realized that the new Americans were pushing them farther and farther into "Indian Territory" and taking over their land. The Native Americans were losing resources, land, pride, their tradition ways, and were finding themselves very dependent on alcohol, which caused chaos and terrible decision making. Tecumseh was going across the United States unifying the Tribes to fight...and almost succeeded. Except while he was gone, his brother "The Prophet" allowed the tribes that had already assembled to steal some new American's horses, which caused a battle to take place before the Native Americans had a chance to build their army. "The Prophet" told his people he would cause the bullets not to hurt them. So when they fell dead, those who remained lost all faith in Tecumseh because of his brother. So the moral of the story is -- and Michael and I have learned this in minstry painfully--be very careful whom you build a partnership with.

-->God's Word is like TRUE and stuff! We are continuing our carpet ride through Turkey (aka, geography study of the Holy land!

The New Testament Christians hid out here in Cappadocian cities!

A temple inside one of the cities in Cappadocia.

This is Haran. Can you remember who lived in Haran?
It was ABRAHAM! These are mud huts. People for thousands of years lived in houses made of resources available to them. These now have cable and electricity, but are very good shelter. Obviously they have started bringing in like WOOD and SHINGLES from the looks of the background.

God's word says the ark came to rest on Mt. Ararat.
This is Mt. Ararat, which is in Turkey near the border of Iran. There are many theories on the "Ararat Anomaly" and if you have a few hours, google it. It is fascinating seeing top-secret, recently declassified photos through the years of what some believe to be the ark of Noah resting on the mount.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Nature Study

The House by Hannah (she drew it in reverse for fun)
A chronic problem with her art is that she gives incredible detail in the beginning and then gets tired, and rather than finishing another day, she slops off the rest of the picture.
The Tree & Baby Swing by Hannah
This is a favorite of mine. I just love that baby swing and what it represents to me when I look out the window every day.
The Tree by Hannah
Leaf by Hannah
A Rose by Mom. This was drawn using a kid's book on how to draw flowers. I can follow instructions but that could never come out of my head.
Our Family by Tara

Baby, Dad Mom by Tree, Hannah looking orangey.
I love that her sun is always cool looking!

Banana Spider by Tara

Tara and I miss that banana spider. RIP
Garbage Pickup by Tara

SO much for NATURE study in the CITY!

The Lake by Tara (acrylic paint)
It is so pretty in person.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Today's Quote

"I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built up on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think." -Anne Sullivan (Helen Keller's teacher)

Classroom Management

I was talking to a public school special education teacher yesterday. She is in year 2 as a teacher and is in a new classroom this year. She used to be a teacher's aid, so she has observed teachers for years and noted areas of general incompetency. We had a great conversation about all it takes to get a classroom ready for students and how to start the year off right. It brought back a lot of memories from when I was a Christian school principal and how hard it was for us to get our classrooms organized, decked out, and streamlined before the students ever arrived.

I have the benefit of knowing my students before the first day of school! I also live in the homeschool environment, so I can take all summer, if need be, to lesson plan (I don't) or organize last year's mess (I do) or decorate (not much) or pre-study (I do) or get inspired (I do! I do!).

School week 1 went fabulous. School week 2 was almost a complete bust.
Monday was productive.
Tuesday we were gone from 10:15 to 4:00. That cuts out a huge chunk of the day.
Wednesday we had therapists, drop-in visitors, plus getting to know a new baby.
Thursday we had more therapists, drop-in visitors, appointments, and new baby.
Friday we had a play date, activities, etc.

Part of managing a classroom is making sure that the work spaces for the students are organized and the processes are streamlined. A big part of classroom management is making sure the schedule works for everyone. Two weeks of school gives clear insight into what needs tweaking. So this morning I worked on the schedule.

A big factor in my schedule is that I am a crazy night owl. I think a lot of people go through this. No matter howe exhausted you are at 6pm, you get a second wind about 8 or 9PM and find yourself up until 2AM. Which makes it impossible to get up at 6AM to jog on the treadmill. My kids stay up reading. And I am thinking, "Why am I so notorious about getting up at 7? I have teenagers! Even public schools are starting at 9 cuz teens stay up late and need to sleep til 7:30 or 8!"

So the first adjustment: start my day at 7 with a workout and shower before everyone else gets up. Get girls up at 8. Get baby up at 8;30 for meds and bottle at 9. Follow the 9,1,5,9 schedule for him with a midnight bottle for extra hydration. Reformulate the schedule based on that. The reformulation comes in where I am working with the girls solely while baby is napping and when he is playing (playing spiderman and trying to injure himself, the girls do independent work). And then build the schedule off of that.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I have signed Hannah up for art classes at a studio in Plano that does classes for homeschooled students. Today we went and toured the facility and looked at examples of the art she will be doing. It will be a cultural study. She will have 30 minutes of instruction each week on a new geographical location, the traditional art of that culture, and the medium of the week. Then she will have an hour to create. I really thought the art examples done by kids in after-school care LAST year (the same study) were exceptional, but they were downplaying the work. Hannah has an eye and I don't comprehend it because I am not artistic or creative at all. So it blows my mind. Tara is also a good artist, but she wanted to take swimming lessons. Hannah will have her lesson every Wednesday at 1PM.

I signed Tara up for swimming 3 at the Frisco Athletic Center (across the street from where one of our USA Olympic female gymnast trains, consequently) for a month or so. I want to secure her spot for the following months through to Christmas, but I can't predict what class she will need to be in, so I need to call and find that out. Tara does very well in her lessons and zoomed through Swimming 2 in 2 weeks and had 2 weeks to just get some one-on-one instruction while the other kids worked on swimming 2 stuff. So she is excited!

I also signed baby Gabe up for Parent & Me swim, which just puts the baby in the pool, teaching the child to be comfortable in the water. He is a FISH. For all teh aspirating that boy does on liquid and food, he always holds his breath in water. Go figure! However, the immunologist told me his immunodeficiency means I have to cancel his lessons. So I will use the $37 for that and put it toward Tara's lessons for October/November I guess.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Open House

These are this week's lesson plans. Lots of fine print!
This is our daily schedule.

Top shelf holds sharp things and pictures and not-for-children markers
Next shelf holds school supplies, etc.
Next shelf holds paper, calculators, index cards, and one of my fave things: label maker
This shelf tends to catch some of the girls stuff.
The bottom shelf holds a bin for each girl to put their books in.
Not exactly tidy on day 5 of school, eh? LOL

These are some of our supplemental and resource books.
These are the books we are reading for Science, History, Art, Literature as well as a couple of Teacher's Manuals.
Side note: The red notebook is my financial notebook. I keep a monthly list of what bills came in and waht I paid, E confirmation numbers, dates of payment, etc. I have a list for months way back in 2003 still!
These are some spelling words we are doing this week (kind of reviewing).
Ultimately, our office holds our books and supplies. We also have a coat closet filled with art and craft materials. We have school on the couches most of the time. Some things they do in bed (like literature reading). Hannnah does math on the laptop and Tara does math at the desktop. Sometimes they work at the kitchen table. Sometimes they work in the van or at the hospital. You just never know!
Sometime this week I'll post some of their sketches from "Nature Study" from this and last week.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

School Week One

Tara concentrating on Math.

Hannah doing math.
Hannah saying, "I didn't shower yet. Don't take my picture!"

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Homeschool Today

I had no idea that school could be so enjoyable. I studied Charlotte Mason's precepts all summer. I prepared myself, dreaming of the learning splendor that was to be. And then last week, I became petrified. I was afraid that I would find myself once again failing, that it is too good to be true. I proceeded with the 4-day school week, something new for us, and though we did have many interruptions of plumbers and tile layers and phone calls and therapists, which did put us temporarily off course, we did complete all studies this week. The only thing the girls did not do was spelling, instrument studies, and typing instruction. Those are afternoon activities and I was not die-hard about those this week.

Everything came about, despite the interruptions, very smoothly. We do need to go to bed earlier so 7am is not so painful, but that will come in time.

There are many things I knew I would enjoy learning about this week, but Geography was not one of them. Instead of letting my apprehension show, I proceeded to read the lesson out of "Explore the Holy Land" as on the curriculum. I found it was fascinating. The premise is that we are exploring Turkey as we ride over it on a magic carpet! It is so imaginative, a true "living book" with narrative, that it is enjoyable!

So after reading about Turkey today, learning about the 4 bodies of water that surround it, about Istanbul being what separates Asia from Europe, about the Bosphorus Straight, and so on, we were reviewing by letting the girls pretend they were doing a "Special Report" on the travel channel on Turkey.

So I prompted Tara to start talking by asking her a question: "What can you tell me about the great seas we discussed?" She looked very serious, when she said, "Well, the seas look like this..." and she drew two C's in the air. I thought she was serious, because she does oftentimes take things VERY literally. We had an issue of "literal translationitis" earlier today when Writing Strands said to look in the dictionary for an etymology of a word and she looked in the dictionary and....defined etymology. LOL

So imagine how scared I was for 3 or 4 seconds when she showed me the formation of two C's in the air. I thought, "Jesus, if this whole time she thought I was talking about a literal gobbling turkey and 4 C's, I don't know what I will do!"f Then she started laughing. A joke. And I laughed until I cried. I couldn't stop laughing and crying, the girls joined in, and for 10 minutes we were useless. I guess I can scratch "laughed at silly pun til I cried" off my Bucket List.

What is a homeschool?

I've always had trouble figuring out how to define what we are doing. Are we homeschooling? or home schooling?

I read an article several months ago, and I only wish I could find it again. The gist of the message was that if our goal is to be an alternative to group school, then why not call ourselves a home school. In that case we are just one of the educational options, so take your pick:

public school
private school
home school

If our desire in educating our children at home is to be a mimic the group school environment, call it a home school. I mimiced group school in the first few years: misunderstanding what socializationis and what my children really needed, using cold-facts books, expecting my students to follow a list of to-do's following a little instruction and then put out remarkable results. I thought we needed the best curricula you can find in a box, complete with teacher's manuals, showing red answers on my copy of the exercise sheets to show me the answer they SHOULD have gotten. I focused on getting through the pages, two by two. I gave them the prescribed verbage and the lessons on the whiteboard, and then asked myself, "Why? Why aren't they getting it?" I was failing them.

I never planned to fail. When I decided to educate my children at home, I had nothing to model the education I wished my daughters after except with the education I had received. My mother was a single woman raising 5 children and working several jobs. She did not have the occasion to read me a single book, to teach me to sew or knit, to ever help me with homework. Her business was working and I took on the motherhood role. I was my own mother and the mother to my siblings. My education took place in the classrooms of public school, and I feel I was served fairly well. But it was because I served myself. The teachers put out the buffet, and I came and took what I needed, showed them my full plate, and tasted of the meal. I had a love of books, no learning disabilities, an insatiable drive, and a desire to please. Other kids were drowning. My own children were drowning 20 years later in private school. And then they were drowning in my own living room.

It was just a home school...a school in a home.

Earlier this year, I came upon an educational philosophy that was new to me. I had previously dismissed it because I associated it with "unschooling." And I associated unschooling with doing nothing. I am strongly against "doing nothing" in place of educating children, because in my role as principal, I saw many children who lost years of educational "something" with "nothing" in the home. I have a someone who is dear to me, an adult, who only has an 8th grade education because of this "doing nothing" at home and calling it education. Yes, circumstances were difficult, but he is strongly affected into his adulthood by this doing nothing.

I was doing a search one day, desperately, on how to IMPACT my children in home education, and came across the name: "Charlotte Mason." I thought, "What is it about this woman?" I read a website, then another. I bought a book, and another. I read 4 more. I became aware of how polluted my concept of education was, as was the education I had received and was now trying to pass on to my daughters. I cried many, many bitter tears. It is earth shattering when you realized you've been duped, and when you realize you passed of twinkies as a well-balanced, nutricious meal to your children for years. It hurts.

I began to seek God about Charlotte Mason's philosophies and methods. I began to see that education as an opportunity. It is not a classroom or a "something we do" from 8-noon on weekdays. Education is not something that can be prescribed: "Read this book, answer 40 questions in your workbook, and then start math." Education is not something you DO. It is something you are. Education is an atmosphere. It can't be contained in a span of 4 hours. It is a lifestyle. True education is deeply contemplative, life-altering, life-giving. It hypnotizes the teacher as well as the student. Education is enrapturing. True education is a gift.

I'm truly not speaking about doing nothing. A Charlotte Mason education is rigorous. It is based on classic literature, world history and geography, Greek Mythology, Plutarch and Shakespeare, classic composers and artists, and a thorough understanding of the Word. Expecations are high, yet the child doesn't know it. Because they are so excited about learning, they are so happy to finally be getting a well-balanced meal, they find it pleasurable. This is why some liken a Charlotte Mason education to "unschooling," because the child doesn't find learning (or "School") a chore any longer. So in that sense, a Charlotte Mason education is very unlike education as we know it. But it is deep, profound, rigorous, and challenging while also being peaceful, profound, and liberating.

How do you know when true education is taking place? A child doesn't want to stop learning. They ask you to read just a little bit more of Little Women. They don't say, "How many more pages," but rather say, "Oh, I accidentally read 4 chapters instead of 1. Is that okay?" It's when a child says, "Mother, do we have to wait until Thursday to have our next Geography lesson?" True education is when you become utterly absorbed, and learning takes precedence over every other activity in the home: sleeping, eating, and all forms of inactive entertainment (electronic-based). Real learning is taking place in your home when your 10 year old child says, "Act 1, Scene 3 of Twelfth Night is very funny." Or when they say, "Why don't I have math on Fridays? Why can't I have it 5 days a week?" Real education is when your child goes to youth group, and when asked what their favorite activity was all summer, she says, "I started school early, and I love math."

Real education is taking place in your home when you have a homeschool. A home school is just a school in a house. But a homeschool is where home and school are one in the same. It is where the learning never ceases, education is a lifestyle and a joy, and lives are truly changed.

We started home schooling in December, 2003. But August 4, 2008, was our first day of homeschooling. And I am proud to say my kids now know the difference.