January 31, 2004

A Month in Review... Well this was officially our first month of schooling. I had originally planned to start in September but with Sirah's birth in August it got pushed back and then we moved and I just waited until January to start. I figure it was just fine to cut myself some slack as she is just 4 1/2 and couldn't be in public school K yet.

This month we focused primarily on reading and it was successful. In the past week and a half she has read 8 of the Bob First books and 7 of the Primary Phonics Set 1 books. She knows 6 sight words and is getting close on 4 more. It is amazing to witness the light going on when it just all clicks together. We've also tried reading some Dr Suess but she gets frustrated that she can't sound out all the words properly yet so we backed off those for a little while. We have also been working through Phonics Pathways. She has recently been much more excited about reading the books though so we've done less in the workbook. We will need to get back into it now to start two consonant blends.

We have worked through four bible verses - her memorization is very good (better than mine). Even Ciaran has memorized a few of them. We focused on the story of creation and Noah's arc. She loves singing praise songs. She also enjoys writing her verse for the week - I stamp out the dotted manuscript letters for the verse and she traces them.

For math we have been working on addition and subtraction with manipulatives, simple addition of numbers 1-5, number recognition up to 100, matching number sets up to 12, and counting pennies and nickels. She does file folder games, worksheets and hands on activities. She is beginning to show an interest in time so we will probably start that this month.

In science we've talked about earth, continents, and planets this month. We also focused a week on astronauts and space exploration. She has also been keeping up with a nature notebook. The interest in space and the planets surprised me but we went with it and it has been a lot of fun. Ciaran has joined right in for most of it as well.

We've also been working through short poem and nursery rhyme memorization and recitation. She can do about a dozen without flaw and is working on about a dozen more. She really enjoy standing up and presenting them in a more formal way.

I must admit I have not been good this month with keeping up with our reading list. I will try to be better in February. We have read probably our average 100 books or so for this month. Our current chapter books are in the Little House on the Prairie series and Kirsten An American Girl. We are also reading Ciaran the Frog and Toad books as chapter books at night before bed. We only made two library trips this month though with the cold - so we have read more from here. We have also been working through Aesop's Fables and some short stories found in What Your kindergartener Needs to Know by John Hirsch (an excellent reference book).

We have focused on Claude Monet and Antonio Vivaldi this month. The kids have focused on one painting a week of his - we have a calendar of his art on a display stand in our schoolroom. Ciaran's favorite is still "The Luncheon" and Rhiannon's favorite is " The Japanese Bridge". We have mostly listened to "The Four Seasons" though we have also expanded occasionally to some guitar concertoes. I love that the kids ask to listen to Vivaldi all the time. It adds such a peaceful and light feeling to our home and the music is so full.

Only two field trips this month: the model train museum and our homeschool class on self esteem. Both were very big hits. The remainder of the things we had planned we cancelled due to weather, lack of a car or some other unforeseen circumstance.

Ciaran had his first two preschool cooperative classes and they went very well. I think it will take a little time for the kids to settle into the way of things. Right now it is just nice for them to get together and get to know each other and learn what little they can concentrate on, but mostly have fun together.

This month it seems several things have clicked for Ciaran as well. He is counting to 12 correctly now and is just starting to recognize numbers. He is showing some interest in his ABC song and can do some of it. He is very interested in listening to ABC books like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Dr suess ABC's and "A You're Adorable". We are beginning to focus on the phonics with him as well - with simple games like "what begins with the letter X and rhyming games.

He knows all his colors and can answer both "What color is this" and "Find me a ____ ball". For the longest time he would always get it right if you asked him to find a certain color but could not tell you what color something was - it clicked together this month. He also knows all his basic shapes and some of his more complicated ones.

His vocabulary and conversation skills have been soaring as well. He is very clear and often able to express what he wants through his words now. His imaginary play skills amaze me - he is very creative and I think it helps that he and Rhia could spend all day in their imaginary play together. I am really starting to see the benefits of having kids so close together.

Sirah is growing so fast - she is sitting up and playing with everything. Her favorite toys are her feet, our fingers and anyone's hair (Rhiannon's most often). She also loves brightly colored soft toys that have different textures and make noise and her wooden rattles. She is beginning to enjoy being read to - though the basic test for enjoyment of a book is still how good it tastes and how well it withstands drool. She has no interest in playing on her tummy or rolling - she wants to be in the center of it all and sitting or being in the sling gives her a much better vantage point. She is cooing and beginning to babble and she is just so much fun to be around. Her smile is infectious and her red hair does come out in her temper when she is unhappy. She actually enjoys having Rhiannon read to her, Ciaran sing and dance for her and watches very intently whenever we do "Baby Einstein" flashcards.

Sirah just lights up whenever daddy looks at her or plays with her and I already know her first word will be dada - just like Rhiannon. Ciaran's was "ball" also no big shocker! But she does love being with me and is starting to get into that mommy anxiety stage. I am just trying to enjoy each moment of these early days while still balancing the needs of the other kids, Serona and the household.

Well that is probably more of an overview than you bargained for. Hope all is well with you.


January 30, 2004

Homeschool Protection Before Congress... No, it is not a formal bill or anything like that. However, Chris Clicka from HSLDA recently testified before Congress about homeschoolers being harassed by social workers. He offered some possible solutions.

Taken from HSLDA website:

"For 20 years, HSLDA has been on the front lines to protect innocent homeschoolers from being traumatized at the hands of social workers pursuing anonymous tips.

On January 28, Chris Klicka, Senior Counsel of HSLDA had the chance to inform Congress of this ongoing problem. He testified before the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means. The chairman, Representative Wally Herger, verbally indicated his interest in the issue at the hearing."

After outlining some cases where innocent homeschool families have been harassed Klicka offered the following suggestion:

Klicka proposed that Congress, through its child welfare program funds, require states to eliminate the investigation of anonymous tips (tipsters would have to identify themselves) and penalize intentionally false tipsters.

You can read more here.


Glenn Reynolds on Education... Many of you may be familiar with his InstaPundit blog, but he also has GlennReynolds.com. Yesterday he blogged on some of the problems with our education system. From his piece:

"In other words, the school administrators don't want their students to aim high. We're not going to hold our own against the Indians, the Chinese, and the rest of the world that way.

The educational system is broken. It's been broken for so long that it's easy to tune out stories like this, but in fact, the damage that is being done is significant, and as America's lead over the rest of the world erodes, ignoring that damage is getting far more costly. It's time that the subject gets more attention -- and, even more importantly, action."

Read the whole commentary here.


Tip of the hat to daryl for the link.

CBS Homeschooling Report... Being a non-TV household I did not watch this morning's report, however there is a write-up of the story here.

It is not an earth shattering story, not much new here. It mostly has a positive light on homeschooling and talks about how there are many opportunities for homeschooled kids to do activities. The story also cites Dr Ray's research that you have all probably read about.

I blogged about it back in October. You can read more here.

Part of me just wonders when the "socialization" issue will go away. I'm not going to rehash the issue here again, but the reality is for MANY homeschoolers (ourselves included) the biggest issue is finding time to just stay home and school. There are endless opportunities for our kids and the large group of other kids they interact with.

I shouldn't complain, at least this is a step in the right direction for CBS. They are after all being positive about homeschooling and picturing the kids in a "normal" light (atleast on the web - I can't attest to the video segment). However, they still have a long way to go in my eyes to recover from "The Dark Side of Homeschooling excuse for journalism reports in October. Since my October archives beat this issue to death, I will leave it alone now.

Oh What a Morning... I awoke at 5:30 to Serona's frustration with our faithful Australian Shepherd who had pooped throughout our living room on our nice new carpet. I got up to assist him in cleaning up the piles of this, what a way to start the day! There are now toilet paper markers throughout my living room so we can avoid all the spots and pray that the enzyme cleaner works to get it all up. I will need to schedule a carpet cleaning because I just keep thinking to myself - Sirah will be crawling on this carpet in not too long.

As if that was not enough - Serona's car is in the shop - so we are again a one car family. No biggie I have no need for the car - but unfortunately the dog does. Since he is obviously sick a visit to the vet (with three kids in tow) is in order so we now must drive Serona to work. We wake up all the children - who are NOT pleased to be getting up and dressed at this hour, but we have no choice as Serona has an important meeting early this morning.

So we pack into the van and drive him off to work. But our garage would not close it was so cold - so Serona got out in the cold to fight with it. The kids thankfully fell back asleep in the car under their blankets and all bundled up. Thankfully the heat works well in our car though it did still feel pretty cold since the actual air temperature is -23! Yes you read me right it is 23 degrees BELOW zero this morning BEFORE you factor in the wind chill! There are weather warnings that exposed skin will get frostbite. And oh did I mention that WITH the windchill it feels like -40 according to weather reports! Though honestly once it is below zero it is just cold period - I don't feel the degrees anymore, I just want to run inside and hide.

Well atleast we are home now in our nice warm house and it is worth the 200 heating bills, just like when we lived in Georgia it was worth the 300-400 dollar air conditioning bills! I can't imagine doing school right now. A video is on, I am going to figure out breakfast and how to keep the kids away from the "landmines" and keep the dog from having more accidents (I can't even leave him outside today), until we all bundle back up and head to the vet. Hope your day is starting off better!


January 29, 2004

New Form of Matter... For all your young budding scientists. This story will surely be interesting. BBC is reporting that a lab has created a new form of matter.

CBS on Homeschooling... I just received this from a homeschool listserv:

"The Early Show on CBS TV is planning to air a several-minute segment
on homeschooling this Friday, January 30, 2004 during the show's
regular 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. time slot. As of the writing of this
announcement, CBS thinks that the homeschool story will air at about
8:15 a.m. (but this specific time during the two-hour slot could be

It is likely that the story will focus on the opportunities
for "socialization" and "social interaction" that the home educated
have today and the activities in which they actually participate. And
it is likely that the story will include an interview with Dr. Brian
Ray in which he will present findings from his recent research which
is reported in his full-length report (book) entitled, Home Educated
and Now Adults: Their Community and Civic at

Dr. Brian Ray and his organization National Home Education Research
are dedicated to providing feedback and evaluation regarding the
homeschooling movement. If you are not familiar with his work and
interested in the topic, I think you would find his research invaluable.

Another important source is from former New York Teacher of the Year,
John Taylor Gatto. Mr. Gatto was, I think, a stockbroker turned
teacher in the New York City school system and taught in the system
for approx 25 years or so. His conclusions are staggering. "

Keep an eye on it.

Today's activities... We've had a good morning - no formal schooltime but it is just too cold outside and the kids are too full of beans that I've just decided to have one of those work the teachable moments into the day kind of days. We started off with a video which was all children's praise and worship songs that allowed them to dance, sing and follow simple directions. Then while I cleaned up from the morning Rhiannon worked on some simple workbook sheets on phonics, short A and handwriting. Then she listened to part of "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" by CS Lewis - this book on tape has gotten a lot of mileage in the past two weeks! Together we played some board games including the sausage game and then bird game from Ravensburger First Games series (excellent games for young ones). Ciaran played Discovery Toys what's that sound game. Rhiannon played Little People and Ciaran made designs with tangrams. We made brownies together (working math skills in) and then the kids did some puzzles. Rhiannon has done some reading including a bob book and some more from her current Primary Phonics book (she doesn't have the patience to make it straight through these books anymore - they are about 13 pages long now with several sentences a page). They are finishing out the morning with some Model Magic making puppets for a puppet show we will do later. They are still begging me to go outside, but it is negative 15 before the windchill.

Recent Activities... I've been a bit busy to blog through the days this week so I'll just recap some of my favorite moments. Rhiannon at snack time decided to make letters out of her pretzels by biting them into shape, she made C, J, r, t, o, f, e and l that I remember. We've been using our refrigerator magnets quite a bit, Rhia to practice reading and Ciaran to learn the sounds of the letters. We worked on our nursery rhymes and poems - we are up near twenty memorized and able to be recited now (even Ciaran has taken to this). Sirah is starting to babble more and using consonant sounds. Yesterday she made the d sound so I know she will say dada first like the other two. _Sigh_

Ciaran and I have played soccer and cars and snuggled together. We've started just talking more and he is so cute, I love his age. His tempers are back in check for the most part and I'm thankful to be over that recent stage. Rhia has been into making crafts and reading for the most part. I find that the time we spend on school these days is mostly focused on reading as that is where her interest is these days and she is burning through these Primary Phonics and Bob Books. Dr Suess still frustrates her as there are many more words that are not so easy to sound out or have more blends and long vowel sounds. I am still trying to build her confidence and gradually challenge her so the Primary Phonics and Bob Books work really well.

Singing and dancing is popular these days. Listening to Vivaldi a favorite and talking about Monet once or twice a week. Yesterday Rhiannon and I talked about Earth and the continents and oceans for science time and we just seem to work math into our days. Bible memorization is going well, it truly is amazing how much of a sponge they are now - they find it easier than I do. Play-doh is a favorite. I finally broke down and bought some - our homemade stuff was only lasting for a few weeks at a time and then it was VERY sticky! WE have a TON of cookie cutters and alphabet and number cutters that they can use to play with. I have been slow to bring the paint out in the new house - I admit it - I am much better about that in the spring and summer when cleanup is so much easier.

We of course have been reading - I'll try to get our list up later today. Lincoln log and block constructions have been a hit and Rhia has really taken to doll play recently (no barbie or polly pockets here though) and seems to be developing friendships with her dolls. The wintertime is also a time they get to watch more videos. As I type this Karen Henley's "Grow, Grow, Grow" is on. I really like her videos because they are interactive - the kids dance and sing and learn about God through them. Sometimes we also watch Veggie Tales or Little Bear. They are also more tolerable for us as adults.

Well I need to get to my responsibilities of the day.

Preschool... Yesterday was our second preschool class at our home. We have four children ages near the age of 3, three boys and a girl. With siblings we end up with 10 children in the house! But three of them are infants so for the time being it is pretty manageable. One of the moms taught a lesson on the seasons and then the kids made snowflakes out of paper. It was interesting to watch them all with scissors. It was certainly cold enough to explain winter to them with temps staying negative all day before the windchill!

Overall yesterday went better than the week before, the kids are paying more attention and seemed to concentrate for short spurts. I think it will get progressively better, after all they are young. If nothing else it is nice for them to be making friends their own age and feeling like they are the ones with a special activity (as several have older siblings) planned just for them. It is nice to spend time focusing on kids that age and I always love the answers they come up with and watching them learn.


January 28, 2004

Reading Progress... Well Rhiannon is really enjoying reading we are on Book 6 of the Primary Phonics Set 1 and Book 7 of The Bob Books first. This morning I put a video on for Ciaran and she actually choose to sit on the couch and read while I cleaned up for the morning and got ready for Ciaran's preschool class! I am so excited for her and today she asked if we could put "the" and "of" on the fridge with magnets so she could look at them and remember.

More after preschool...


January 27, 2004

Yet Another Reason to Homeschool... CNN news headline "Rats prompt Chicago school cleanings" is good enough for me. Funny that DCFS is not knocking down the door and shutting down schools that have rat and mouse droppings in their kitchen. Read more.

Surprise... Homeschoolers go to college and often have less adjustment problems than their peers. As many homeschooler's have more independence they find the adjustment easier. A recent CNN article discusses it further.

Mommy Education... Serona and I have decided to start classwork again to change the intellectual side of our brains that so often can be left ignored. Last night on our date we went to a wifi coffehouse and sifted through some MIT OpenCourses to decide on a class. It came down to Political Economy of Development, the History of the Middle East, or Technology in a Dangerous World. We then went to look for the texts and readings for the class and realized how difficult and expensive it would be to track those down and decided at this point we will need to take another tactic.

So we headed off to Barnes and Noble's bargain book section and browsed for something that peaked our interest. We decided a study in US President's would be interesting and we picked Ronald Reagan basically because of the selection that was there. We picked up three books on Reagan to use as our course texts. Two are from Reagan "true believers" and one is a "unbiased" review of his presidency. We will also rent some films on him. The plan is to kind of immerse ourselves in him for a little while - with assigned reading of one chapter a week in the main book and each of us working through the other books to bring different perspectives to the discussion. When we are finished we plan on each writing a paper on our studies and then picking up another topic of interest.

It is so nice to be married to a man who thinks this is a fun way to spend our alone time and who's interests often coincide with mine (politics, argument, science fiction, apologetics, environmentalism) and who can also stretch me (economics, deep philosophy and medieval history are not my cup of tea) and who I can stretch (identity politics, power, social movements and media studies aren't his) so we can sharpen each other like "iron sharpens iron". We are contemplating starting another blog to follow the progress of our studies if we do, I will be sure to let you know.

For now it is exciting to add to my self-study list. Currently I keep up with breastfeeding research, homeschooling, parenting, whole foods and nutrition, and I try to stay on top of current affairs such as world affairs, us politics, and privacy issues. But a class type structure really appeals to me, sometimes I truly need the discipline, even though I am a life long learner.

Good friends... Sometimes in our busy lives I think it is easy to overlook our friendships and not say thank you or take time to appreciate those that mean so much to us. This morning we haven't gotten much school done yet because we had a playdate with some friends we hadn't seen in awhile. The girls go to church together and see each other in Sunday school but as moms we haven't managed a playdate in awhile. Reason being, our schedules fill up quickly or we have other things come up (sick kids, husband's work, church responsibilities, etc) and we need to reschedule. The thing that I appreciate about this friend is she is easy to understand and accept when life happens and we need to change the plans of the day. At this stage in our life our days can be unpredictable and we often need to change the momentum and plans to fit the needs of the moment, I love friends that can understand and appreciate this and go with the flow. I have several very good friends - who no matter what understand when life happens and you can understand when life happens to them - it is nice to have the kind of relationship that can pick up where it left off and move forward from that point. I hope you too have friends like this in your life, they are worth so much. So thank you to all of you and take a moment to thank those people in your life.


January 26, 2004

Today's reading...

I Spy A Book of Shapes by Patricia Hall
My Many Colored Days by Dr Suess
Snappy Little Dinosaurs by Silver Dolphin Pop Up
If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Numeroff
Clap Your Hands by Lorinda Cauley
Goldi's Locks by Ready Readers
Sheep on a Ship by Margot Apple
Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak
Tiny Rabbit Goes to a Birthday Party by John Wallace
Horton Hears a Who by Dr Suess

Rhia's Reads
Hop on Pop by Dr Suess
Tim by Primary Phonics
The Jet by Primary phonics

Infant Read's
Close By Me
My Light
Little Things
My Heart
Jesus Loves Me (all little board books)
Winnie the Pooh Senses by Disney
I'm so blessed... I truly am blessed with a gem of a husband. There could be no one better for me than Serona and he manages to put up with all my quirks to boot! We are so alike in so many ways that sometimes it is scary - though we certainly have our differences as well. Debate and a love for competition running deep in our veins always keeps our marriage interesting and fun. The whole concept of "they married so they could argue more conveniently" from "A boy and his horse" by CS Lewis does sometimes apply - but we both love a good argument so all is well. But I'm not writing about our differences here, but rather an amazing blessing we have.

We are each other's best friends and I really mean that. We have both gone through stages where we were each other's only real friend and we are always the person that the other most depends on and trusts. Recently we have both been struggling to find "iron to sharpen iron" for ourselves. We have tried our church and it seems each class we take only reaffirms our need for more, I feel like I am perpetually stuck in 101 classes when I need 500 or 600 level classes, at most we can find 200 level - if we work real hard to stretch something into that. We chatted about it and realized that it comes from missing the true exchange of intelligent arguments that occurs in both debate and graduate school. So we've decided to start taking a class on our own together to challenge ourselves (yes papers and all) and we turned to MIT Open Course Ware an online resource of actual MIT courses. We are reviewing them and picking one to work on together on our date nights!

Okay so if you didn't think we were weird enough I am sure I just pushed you over the edge - instead of going to a movie or out for dinner we are going to have a graduate level class each week - just the two of us. I am so glad that I married a reader, a philosopher, a writer and an intellectual. Someone who truly loves to talk about and get involved with politics and his faith. Someone who rises to a challenge and has a lifelong passion for learning and bettering himself and his family. And he is a nice and fun guy to boot! I am so blessed. Thanks Serona for being you and being the best!

Rhythm of our day..,. This afternoon has been good - Rhiannon and I read another phonics reader - she is really doing very well - it is so much fun to be a part of. She also worked on matching number sets up to 12. We had some nice reading time and got quite a bit read. We played dress up all together and did some fashion plates. Ciaran recited Hot Cross Buns and Rhia practiced her Irish step dance. Sirah and I read some books, played peek-a-boo, pat-a-cake and "This little piggy". Ciaran took a two hour nap which made Rhiannon's reading time go better. We sat in the library together so dad could hear her reading from the office while he did his work. Then she began stringing a necklace together and Ciaran is now helping her finish it. A nice moment where they are actually cooperating to accomplish a task - I should probably go get the video camera out! I even got some quiet time today. I'm trying to read through the bible in a year and be faithful about journaling, I'm running about 50-50 so far this month, but it is a start. Not sure the kids are going to get outside today, that may have to wait until tomorrow - but it certainly isn't like the snow is going anywhere! Off to start dinner and set the kids up with their Nature Notebooks while I make it (what that is I am still unsure). Today I'm going to have them draw the snow covered yard while they listen to the Winter movement from Vivaldi.

Snowed In... We are all hunkering down and enjoying the snowfall. Serona even decided to work from home and is tucked away downstairs in our office. We have had a good weekend setting things up around the house, getting our home network working and setting up our new wireless Lyra that transfers computer radio and mp3s to our surrond sound system. I really realized how blessed we are and how wired of a family we are. I type this blog entry from the computer on our kitchen counter, listening to classical streaming music while Roomba cleans the bedroom floors. Serona is working from home downstairs on our network listening to some loud streaming music through his headphones and there are classical and world music mp3s playing in the schoolroom while the kids have some free playtime and Sirah is asleep on the bed. We truly are blessed and I love being a wired household.

So far today we have reviewed our bible memorization verses and learned a new one. Rhiannon wrote a letter to her grandparents and her cousin and was very excited to put stamps on them and get them ready to mail. Ciaran played with his animals and built a row of blocks all neat together. We read a chapter of "Little House in Big Woods" and had some time discussing Monet's works. I really enjoyed listening to them describe what they saw in each picture and then having them tell me what it should be called. Rhia recognized the reflection in Monet's Japenese Bridge at Giverny and Ciaran really like the table set in The Luncheon. We talked about colors and how the paintings made us feel.

We cleaned and did laundry and the kids were very excited to have a snack of chocolate chip cookies. This afternoon's agenda includes Rhia continuing her reading of Hop on Pop, Phonics blends, dress-up and playing in the snow. Roomba will finish my floors and I will take 15 minute breaks to clean. Ciaran can hardly wait until bedtime as he is excited to read the next chapter in his Frog and Toad book. All in all a nice way to spend a snowy Minnesota day.


January 23, 2004

Today's Read's... Well it has been awhile since I updated our reading list and some books have gotten lost in the shuffle. For those who are curious we did meet our personal family goal of reading 300 books in 3 months to help with the service project of donating books to students and classrooms in need. Our group actually managed to read 1000 books! The kids really enjoyed it and everyone benefits, that is the best kind of service project in my opinion.

I am going to try to keep a running monthly log of the books we have read - but I have not been faithful for January up until this point - so I will just start with the books we read yesterday and today.

A Song for Little Toad by Vivian French
Ten Little Ladybugs by Melanie Gerth
Cinderella by Disney
The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood
Coutning Our Way to Maine by Maggie Smith
Night Tree by Eve Bunting
Meet Kirsten An American Girl by Janet Shaw
The Red Shoes by Barbara Bazilian
Baby's First Bible by Reader's Digest
When I Grow Up - Cool Jobs I might try - by Bruce Lansky
Learn Your Numbers by Sparkle Books
How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
A You're Adorable by Martha Alexander

Infant reads (judged on how good they taste and withstand drool):
Kisses by Cyndy Szekeres (one of my favs)
God Made All the Colors by Lion Publishing (another favorite)
Pooh's Colorful Shapes by Disney
Touch and Feel Baby Animals by DK
Touch and Feel Wild Animals by DK
Thomas and Friends by Josie Yee

Rhiannon's Reads:
Mac and Tab by Primary Phonics
The Tin Man by Primary Phonics
Al by Primary Phonics

Touch and Feel Baby Animals (
Good Habits... Thank goodness for having developed some healthy habits or my kids would not have gotten much out of today. Between Ciaran cracking an egg purposefully inside my fridge and his half hour temper tantrum I felt like I was losing my mind. But still Vivaldi played, Monet was available for viewing and their entertainment options were limited enough that they chose to do a stages of life butterfly puzzle, sew, string beads and build with their blocks. Rhainnon wanted to read us all another story and Ciaran asked to do flash cards. This is all good because I don't think I had any creativity left in me. Sirah has been sleeping nearly all day (as long as she is in a sling or backpack on me) and it is quiet time for the kids. I am thinking leftovers for dinner and folding laundry are on the agenda now. I suppose it is good to have days like these once in awhile.

We all got a second wind this evening and Rhiannon practiced her dolch sight words flash cards - she got pretty stuck on that and of - but otherwise did pretty well with the basic 10. Rhia also worked on lacing cards and Ciaran helped clean and cook. We had some special reading time on our new couch until Sirah could take it no longer and then it was dinner time and now they are getting ready for bed - an early night in hopes of Serona and I spending some time together.

Hope you have a good weekend.

How Cool is this Ice Palace?

We hope the bitter cold calms down soon to take the family to see it. To find out more about this ice palace check out this story.


January 22, 2004

GREAT DAY!... Today was one of those great days you just want to clone. We got so much accomplished and I even managed to get a homeade soup and bread on the table for dinner and a mostly clean house! I just got back in from having a Mom's Time Out (well Sirah was with me) with a dear friend. The kids did really well today and we had a very special moment.

Today Rhiannon READ! It was as if it all just clicked together with her and the light bulb went on. She had been telling me she was bored with our phonics practice - so I said we could try reading a book instead (a phonics primer) and I truthfully was not expecting much - but she did it. She was able to sound out nearly every word in a simple phonics book of three letter words and sight words. She was so excited that she was actually reading it and I was so proud of her. Later that afternoon while dinner was cooking and I was nursing Sirah she asked if she could read another book to Ciaran and I - so we piled onto the couch and she read the second book in the set and only needed help with the sight words and being sure of the b and d's (she actually always knew which one it was but wasn't confident enough so always asked). I know it is just a simple phonics reader - but she is just 4 and she was really doing it and you could tell it made sense to her. The best part of it all was seeing her excitement and enthusiasm!

In addition to this milestone we actually did some other things. Rhiannon practiced putting numbers 1-16 in order , did addition and subtraction with manipulatives, finished several worksheets in her big K skills book (same, different, big, small, sequencing, alphabetical order, nominal order and handwriting practice on g, j, and k, drawing stars, and connect the dots), she "taught" another class on the moon and earth and we discussed death a bit (a very good friend of the family died last fall and it seems to be really hitting her now), she did some art with stampers and helped keep her sister happy throughout the day.

Ciaran also did stamp art, built a city with blocks for his cars, then built a race track for them, he did a shape file folder game, practiced his colors, and had free art time on the easel. He played with his trains and with his Leap Phonics magnets. We read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom together and pointed at the letters. My favorite moment with him was watching him teach Sirah "Old MacDonald" with a hand puppet of all the animals - it was very sweet.

Sirah is loving sitting on her own and she is starting to babble more and more. She loves to play with her toes and flip pages in books. She has two rattles that she really enjoys holding and a busy cube that she loves hitting and touching all the different textures. She still wants to be held most of the time and protests when she cannot see or feel me. She enjoyed watching Roomba clean the floors as well.

Today was one of those days that made me LOVE being home - which is great because last week I had one of those really tough days where nothing ever seems to go right. But being a part of Rhia's first time reading, listening to Sirah's babbling and watching Ciaran teach his baby sister with puppets were too precious for words and I will treasure this day and the many more to come.


Another Reason to Homeschool... In California lawyers are trying to help parents reclaim their rights to educate their children in certain areas. According to the article:

""Given the ever-increasing attempts by educrats who believe 'we're the experts, you're just parents, and we know what is best for your child,' to impose their political agenda and views on students in public schools, it is vital that parents take an active part in the education of their children," said Gary Kreep, education attorney and executive director of the United States Justice Foundation (USJF), a conservative legal organization."

Of course this situation is avoided for the most part by the choice to homeschool. I feel for the parents who feel that they have lost control of educating their children to the system. But of course my first thought is - you chose to give the system that control the day you sent your kids to their school.

Read more about it at New 'Opt-Out' Form Gives Calif. Parents Greater Control Over Children's Education.


January 21, 2004

Daily Round-up... Sirah is sick and I spent most of the day holding her and tending to her needs. I tried to work in as much as I could around this. Rhia worked on phonics - she is really enjoying and making progress in her consonant blends and ending sounds of words. She practiced writing numbers 1-10 and counting groups of objects. We finished Kirsten An American girl today and she "taught" our science class about the earth and the moon and landing on the moon with a lunar module. She drew on the whiteboard and described the process and then made me hold a rock as the moon while she demonstrated how to land on it with her own dime. It was cute, fun and she really seemed to understand and explain it well.

We practiced reciting our nursery rhymes - their current favorite is "Hot Cross Buns". We read Dr Suess ABC's and did some phonics jumping on our big floor mat. Ciaran and I practiced letter recognition and sounds and the read an old edition of Animal Baby, played the games and identified the animals. We did flash cards at his request on shapes, colors, numbers, weather and directions.

They made a house, then a fort, then an animal cave out of a big cardboard box. They made it rain money - then practiced cooperation and persistence for the near half hour it took to clean up, while I practiced patience. They asked me to play tetris so they could watch (no joke), we ate tofu, pasta and popcorn for lunch and took a family nap.

It was a wonderful but exhausting day - it is amazing how much energy holding a 5 month old sick baby takes from you. She is almost asleep in the sling as I type this standing at my kitchen counter - doing the mommy sway.

Blogging March Madness... Be sure to check out and enter your favorite blog post of 2003 in BlogMadness 2003!

Music Man Politics... Some of you may know "The Music Man" is one of my favorite movies - so I couldn't help but love this rewrite about the Dems. Check out Drumwaster's Rants!: You're in Ioway.

Just for the fun of it... Okay so I may be a little loopey as I've been up for a few hours with a sick baby, but I thought this Online Etch A Sketch was fun. I also found the Virtual Bubble Wrap to be therapeutic.

Thanks to Beth for the link.


January 20, 2004

Missed Opportunities... I don't know why I am continually amazed at the apathy of Americans and the disinterest in the governing of our country, but I am. I suppose it is an optimism buried somewhere deep inside me thinking "This time it will be different" - but sadly it never is. Tonight was the State of the Union address and I wonder how many watched or listened to it or read it online. I did, Serona did and our kids did, did you?

As many of you know we do not get television stations (network or cable) in our home for a variety of reasons. The only time I miss this is when the president is speaking, there is a political debate or the Olympics is on. Tonight being one of those nights I headed to our local gym which has TV's everywhere. What followed should not surprise me but it did sadden me.

I arrived right as the president was walking in to find that on the big screen TV in the main sitting area was a sportscenter show. One gentleman was watching it and I kindly asked him if we could switch it. Now this is not something I would normally do, but it is the State of the Union. He seemed exasperated but consented so I put it on. He sat for awhile and watched and then got up and left. People drifted in and out, I was the only one to watch it start to finish (granted there may have been others in the gym as there are many TV's in the general exercise area) but many people were walking in and out of the gym while this was going on, several making wisecracks as they passed by. I couldn't help but think to myself "HELLO PEOPLE, THIS IS THE PRESIDENT OF YOUR COUNTRY SPEAKING ABOUT THE STATUS OF YOUR COUNTRY. DON'T YOU CARE?"

I don't think it matters your politics - you should be interested in what is going on. Even when it was Clinton and I knew I literally could not believe anything the man ever said again I still made myself listen and be respectful - he was the leader of our country. But so many people I saw tonight did not appear to care. The saddest to me was watching the kids and their parents at the gym. Parents who passed by or let their kids run around the area without so much as mentioning "That is President Bush" to their kids. _Sigh_ would that really be that hard to do?

Perhaps you would say I expect too much from people, I don't think so. Now I am not saying everyone needs to do things the way we do. Most people think we are nuts making our 2 and 4 year old listen to the president and involving them with political campaigning and taking them to see Ralph Nader, President Bush, First Lady Bush and our governor and senator speak. Our kids can recognize the president by his picture and know their governor's name - but I know that is unusual - but I still think it is sad.

I wonder how many people missed out on a great opportunity tonight to teach their kids about our land, our president, our laws, the good and the bad. Many may have had reasons but it saddens me that there seems to be so little respect for the governing leaders of our country. What are we teaching our kids? To me it was awe inspiring to see almost all the leaders of our country in one room and to be reminded of all we have accomplished as a nation and to dream and plan for all that is to come. I want to share that passion and experience with my kids and I am saddened that others don't.

Just like we can raise our kids to eat well, learn the basics and the finer things in life, we can and should teach them to be active and responsible citizens. That begins by being active and responsible citizens ourselves and then making the political, legal, and legislative process tangible, interesting and a normal part of their everyday life. No wonder so many people grow up thinking they can't make a difference. Let's make changes in our own families and spheres of influence. We can and should take the teachable moments life hands us and use them to the best we can. A State of the Union address is one such opportunity that far too many pass up.

Just my .02

Enterprising Teen... Now as many of you know I am not a huge Microsoft fan. Though I have had to admit that I sadly need to keep windows on atleast one of my machines because Linux is simply not compatible enough with what I use my computer for. Still I am enjoying the Mike Rowe story.

This teen bought the domain name MikeRowesoft.com - his name is Mike Rowe and now Microsoft is trying to take the domain name from him - claiming they are protecting their trademark. The most appalling part of it all - is when Microsoft sent him a cease and desist letter and he said no - they offered him $10.00. Come on people!!!! What was I just saying about not taking kids serious enough? What a joke and how offensive to offer him 10. I hope that he wins and Microsoft backs down. I believe they are overstepping their boundaries - I mean it is HIS name after all. Of course I am not a lawyer.

Anyway you can see his website and read his story there. His site has had so many recent hits he needed to shut it down for a time. So visit and support him in whatever way you can and get the word out!


January 19, 2004

The Finer Things in Life... I really want my children to grow up with an appreciation for some of the finer things in life - like good art, music and food. I would read Jane Austen and love that art, music and poetry was such an important and normal part of their lives and was sad that it seemed not to be the case for me and would it be for my kids? I've made a commitment to make it be and in the simplest way possible - make it always available to them and treat it as the norm rather than the exception. This is the way we approach healthy food and it works very well in our lives in that area and so far it seems to work nicely in art appreciation.

Just as my kids are growing up with tofu, avocado, edamame, broccoli and hummus as normal and good food in their lives (yes they actually request and love these) so I want it to be with Monet, Vivaldi, Frost, Van Gogh, Mozart and Shakespeare. They will grow up hearing, seeing and learning these things from a very early age and they already show a love of it. I don't know about you but I think Vivaldi is much more enjoyable than Barney and my kids think so as well. Rhiannon always asks to listen to classical music and she really enjoys dancing to it. Ciaran has shown a love for art already at such a young age.

And it is far more simple to accomplish than I ever thought. I read in The Charlotte Mason Companion an idea to pick an artist and a composer for a term and concentrate on only them. We decided to choose 4 artists and composers for the year and study one of each for three months at a time. We began in January with Vivaldi and Monet. I play "The Four Seasons" at each mealtime and while we have quiet play or arts and crafts time and Rhia sometimes will ask to listen to it at bedtime. We also have some other Vivaldi pieces we will listen to. My children do recognize his work and as soon as he comes on they say "that's Vivaldi". Now the true test will come after we have studied a few composers and they can discern between them - but still how many 2 and 4 year olds recognize the piece? How many adults for that matter. I was skeptical in the beginning as I thought it would get boring - but I am really enjoying it and realize I am learning as much as my children.

For art I bought some calendars on clearance at the bookstore and a cheap book stand and we pick one painting a week to study until the kids can recognize the painting and discuss it. I just put it on display in our school/playroom and they can look at it whenever they want - occasionally I will ask them what they think of the piece and who the artist is. We began with Monet and are on our third piece, so far their favorite was "The Luncheon". They have taken to this far better than I would have expected and it is so easy to do,

For poetry we listen to a sonnet a day by Shakespeare (I may not read all of them or skip a particular passage if I feel it is inappropriate for children) and I have them stand up tall with arms at their sides and recite an age appropriate poem or nursery rhyme - they think it is great fun and it is getting them used to public speaking and proper manners at an early age. We are also trying to read a chapter of proverbs each day (the corresponding day). We are reading a chapter book and try to read a chapter a day. We did The Eb White books first, then the Chronicles of Narnia and we are now doing Little House on the Prairie.

My kids really enjoy all these things and it makes me smile to know that they are being raised with a diet of good food - both for their bodies and for their minds. Kids will surprise you - they often rise up to the challenge - I wish we would all stop talking down to them and giving them such inane entertainment as if that is all they could appreciate. Then we wonder why teenagers balk at Shakespeare, Poe and Dickinson when faced with it. Not all literature, art and music is appropriate for young children - but let us give them a steady diet of the best instead of letting the media choose what is best for them.

Just my .02
Overview of recent days... We have done too much lately to recap it all so I'll just hit some of the highlights. We are listening to and learning about Vivaldi - current piece "The Four Seasons". We are also studying Monet and have looked at three works so far. We have visited a model train museum and studied space and astronauts. We are reading "Little House in the Big Woods" by Laura Ingalls and the plethora of books we check out of the library. Our bible memorization is going very well and we are working through Phonics Pathways - blends now. We are also working on number recognition and counting to 100 for Rhiannon and 10 for Ciaran. Those are some of the highlights atleast.

It has been too cold to be outside much, so we have spent a lot of time setting up the new home and settling in. We are slowly formulating routines and figuring out our new spaces. We are very happy with the move, it has been a good one for us.

Our homeschool group recently did a group class on Jamie Lee Curtis book "Letting Off a Little Self-esteem, I'm gonna like me". We had a fabulous time at the class. The kids drew their bodies on posters and each took turns looking into a mirror and saying why they were special, it was very touching and interesting to hear the kids responses. Rhiannon said "Because my daddy calls me a princess" and Ciaran said "because I love Jesus". The class went really well even with a large age difference. We look forward to more of them.

We have started a pre-school cooperative for Ciaran and will meet regularly. I am glad to be doing something that focuses on him as I often feel he gets dragged along to things we are doing for Rhia. He has several friends and I look forward to seeing how those relationships develop.

Sirah is sitting up very well and loves to be a part of it all. She enjoys her jumper and riding in either the backpack or the sling. She is not the world's best sleeper but I figure that will come in time and if she learns to sleep through the night consistently before she is 3 1/2 she will have Rhiannon beat. On the other hand Ciaran is my sleeper - he will actually ask to go to sleep.

All in all we are doing well and are happy to be up online again.


January 17, 2004

I'm back... Well after terrible ISP service, a visit from the "Geek Squad" (great service by the way), a new computer and a new dsl connection I am back online! I am too tired to blog much tonight but thought I would say hello and thanks to all of you who have stuck around.


January 9, 2004

Tenn is OUT    School @ Home readers can rest assurred that Tenn will be back and blogging soon. After a move (you've read about it) and countless troubles with the only broadband cable ISP in our new area, we cancelled their terrible "service". So now Tenn is without any internet at home as we await our slower but hopefully more dependable DSL connection.

Hang in there, we'll be back and blogging about our new robot, lessons for the kids, and the joys of the new home.


January 5, 2004

Back in the Saddle Again... Well we started back up now after a VERY long hiatus. It was a good morning beginning, I wanted to go slow to ease them into everything. We started out with a bible memory verse in the library and a story to help us understand it. I really enjoy the resource we are using for this Susan Hunt's "My ABC Bible Verses" it is helpful and easy to follow and my kids really seem to relate to it. Today we reviewed a verse we memorized awhile ago Proverbs 15:1 and learned Matthew 5:9.

Then we headed into the schoolroom where Ciaran played with a pegboard with Rhiannon and I worked on handwriting the letter A upper and lowercase and then brainstormed words that began with the letter A. We did a little phonics work in the style of Phonics Pathways on the letter A. Then she took a break and played with a wooden pattern sorter - you make tangrams into shapes and pictures. Ciaran had now moved onto playing with clay. Rhia and I sat down on the couch with Sirah and read the bible story of creation and talked about each day and what was made. Then we played a game I found online - with cutouts that I have laminated where she matches pictures that describe what God made on each day. It was fun, the set also included the actual scripture so I could read it and then she matched it. She felt just like she was playing rather than learning. Then she wanted some free art time so she colored while I nursed Sirah and talked with Ciaran.

Then she wanted to practice her letters so we printed out her bible verse in manuscript letters from this great site and she wrote that. She was getting frustrated with it but I made her finish it and she was glad when she accomplished it. Then we decided to take a break and have snack. I decided to take on my media company _again_ about our terrible internet service and the kids asked very nicely if they could watch a short movie while I was on the phone. I agreed and was glad I did, I get so frustrated with this media company and I am pretty fed up with the bad connection we keep getting. I thought I would take a minute to blog and relax.

This afternoon's schedule includes science and math, nature notebook and an introduction to Vivaldi - who will be our composer for the next few weeks or months. We will also be trying out our new Roomba. There are many advantages to being married to a techie! I'll give you a full report later.


January 2, 2004

Weekly Roundup... Rhiannon asked me the other day when all the craziness would stop. Between prodromal labor, Sirah joining our family, moving and the holidays we have been crazy non-stop since mid August. Some days I think my kids look at me and wonder where there mommy went. I keep reminding myself that this is only a season. However, some days it feels like a very long season that I want to be over. So I'm trying to compromise more and have more playtime for them - with me and with other kids.

Earlier this week we had another 3 year old boy come over for awhile (his mom just had a baby last week) and it was great for everyone. We played cars, blocks and animals. The kids played Candyland and with flash cards. They built a fire and a castle. They ran around and played many imaginary games. We sat in the library and read several books and we ate dinner and calmed down. All in all it was a great day. Though I am glad we only have 3 under 5 and my heart goes out to those with more than that in this age range!

The next day we had two families from our support group come over to play and help out with the kids so I could unpack. It was very nice and I even got something accomplished! Then we had a day of errand running and the New Year's eve party which was a blast and then a nice relaxed family day at home. Today I have tried to finish up the unpacking and cleaning so we can start a more "normal" life next week.

We have a calm weekend ahead of us and then I hope to start our "routine" next week. We have a field trip planned, a playdate and the first preschool cooperative class for Ciaran, it should be a good week.


January 1, 2004

First Drama... Well tonight the kids had their first public acting experience. We had a big New Year's Eve celebration at our church for families with small children and Serona was in charge of creating a short drama for the kids, the whole family participated, yes he even got me to take part!

Rhiannon and Serona were really the show - but Ciaran and I had little parts and Sirah joined us in the sling. Rhia was so excited and she did a really good job. They played a tired dad and a hyper kid and practiced counting down with Serona messing up and Rhiannon laughing and correcting him. They were very cute. Ciaran got to bang pots and pans together to wake up a sleeping dad and we finished up with a countdown and confetti poppers with a balloon drop. The kids had a grand time and they played their parts well. The rest of the party was great and our kids actually feel asleep within minutes of laying down (very unusual especially for Rhia) because they ran and jumped so much and played so hard.

The party was well put together - dinner and dessert than crafts (noisemakers and party hats), face painting, a variety of games and an inflated jumping air trampoline (which the kids loved) ending with the drama and a countdown. It was alot of fun and nice for the kids and to be with friends from church.

We are settling in to play some Gin Rummy and stay awake until midnight.

New Resource... Check out A Common Reader -- For Young Readers - The Company of Books. This site has listings and brief descriptions of a variety of books grouped by subject and age.