February 29, 2004

Great Photos... You can find some great panoramic photos here. The one of Mt. Everest is outstanding!


Thanks daryl for the link.

February Reading List

Cinderella by Walt Disney (little nugget book)
Hansel and Gretel by General Creation Books
Marmalade and the Magic Birds by Robin Harris
Beauty and the Beast by Walt Disney (Random House PictureBack Shape Book)
Where is Maisy? by Lucy Cousins
How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? by Jane Yolen & Mark Teague
Marvin K Mooney Will You Please Go Now by Seuss (a Daddy Favorite)
The Red Shoes retold by Barbara Bazillian (Hans Christian Anderson)
Baby Sister Says No by Mercer Mayer
You're Adorable by Martha Alexander

Time For Bed by Mem Fox
The Ugly Stepsisters by Walt Disney
The Mitten adapted by Jan Brett
Samuel and the Wake-Up Call by Jane L. Fryar (Arch Books Bible Stories)
Angelina and Alice by Katharine Holabird
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Seuss
A Carnival of Animals by Sid Fleischman
A Birthday for Frances by Russell Hoban
Olivia by Ian Falconer
Hard Scrabble Harvest by Dahlov Ipcar

Cinderella II Tales of a Princess by Walt Disney
I'm Kaitlyn I Have Important Jobs To Do by Crystal Bowman (a great chore book)
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
If You Take A Mouse To The Movies by Laura Numeroff
Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? by Seuss
A Song for Little Toad by Vivian French
Horton Hears A Who by Seuss
Richard Scarry's Best First Book Ever!

Best Of All by Max Lucado
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr
Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel
Snow White adapted from Brother's Grimm
Colors by Leap Frog
First Words by Leap Frog
Shapes by leap Frog
Counting by Leap frog
Mary Poppins by Walt Disney
Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish

Mulan Saves the Day by Nancy E Krulik
The Night Before Christmas by Lanoll Publishing
Walking Around the Garden by John Pratter
How Do Dinosaurs Say goodnight by Jane Yolen
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
The Little Mermaid by Walt Disney (the really loooong version)
The Best Book of Volcanoes by Simon Adams
Quick as a Cricket by Audrey and Don Wood

If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Numeroff
Batman board book
Winnie the Pooh Opposites by Disney
My Train by Storybook Pals
Thomas and Friends by Baby Finger Books
A Child's First Bible by Kenneth Taylor
Jesse Bear What Will You Wear by Nancy White Carlstrom
Cinderella by Fairy Tale Treasury
Bert and the Broken Teapot by Tish Sommers
The Best Place by Miriam Schlein

If I went on Safari by Susan Hood
A You're Adorable by Buddy Kaye
Just a Mess by Mercer Mayer
The Wheels on the Bus by Paul Zelinsky
Marmalade and the Magic Birds by Robin Harris
Raggedy Ann and Rags by Johnny Gruelle
Beautiful Butterfly by Marta Berowska
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
Out and About at the Orchestra by Barbara Turner
Rumble in the Jungle by Giles Andreae

Winnie the Pooh Sense by Walt Disney
Ten Little Ladybugs by Melanie Gerth
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr
Dr Suess ABC
Cars and Trucks by Karen Rissing
Mama Do You Love Me by Barbara M Joose
Sailor Moo Cow at Sea by Lisa Wheeler
The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey and Don Wood
If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff
God Made You Special by Eric Metaxas

Crow Boy by Taro Yashima
My First book of Trains by Octopus Publishing
Ballerina Bear by Pauline Siewert
The Wide Mouthed Frog by Keith Faulkner
Marvin K Mooney Will You Please Go Now by Dr Suess
My Many Colored Days by Dr Suess
Tigger's Breakfast by AA Milne
A Castle on Viola Street by Disalvo (nice book on volunteering)
Eva's Summer Vacation:A Story of the Czech Republic by Jan Machalek
The Best Book of Volcanoes by Simon Adams

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
Volcanoes:Nature's Incredible Fireworks by David Harrison
Mary Veronica's Egg by Mary Nethery
Strega Nona Takes a Vacation by Tomie dePaola
You Read to Me I'll Read to You by Mary Ann Hoberman
Vultures by Lynn M Stone
The Mitten by Jan Brett
Vincent Van Gogh by Jen Green
Vegetable Garden by Douglas Florian
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by eric Carle

The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle
Jacob's Gift by Max Lucado
Little Bear by Maurice Sendak
Winnie the Pooh's Valentine by Bruce Talkington
Johannes Vermeer by Mike Venezia
The Vikings by Peter Chrisp
God Made All The Colors by Lion Publishing
The Voyager Space Probes by Dennis Fradin
Kisses by Cyndy Szekeres
Museum ABC by THe Metropolitan Museum of Art

My V book by Jane Belk Moncure
Valentine's Day by Miriam Nerlove
The Trow Wife's Treasure
Valentine's Day by Gail Gibbons
Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert
Mama do you Love Me by barbara m joose
The Skywalker family albulm by Alice Alfonsi
My O book by Jane Belk Moncure
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
LIttle Sibu: On Orangutan Tale by Sally Grindley

Outside, Inside by Carolyn Crimi
Out and About at the Orchestra by Barbara J Turner
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr Suess
Quick as a Cricket by Don and Audrey Wood
The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood
Olivia by Ian Falconer
Snappy Little Dinosaurs by Pop up Fun
On My Boat by by Robert B Noyed and Cynthia Klingel
Ostriches by Caroline Arnold
Now One Foot Now the Other by Tomie De Paola

Goodnight Owl by Pat Hutchins
Ollie by Oliver Dunrea
Exploring the Deep Dark Blue Sea by Gail Gibbons
Exactly the Opposite by Tana Hoban
A Star in My Orange by Dana Meachen Rau
My Gumpy's Outing by John Burningham
Where Once There was a Wood by Denise Fleming
I want to be a Vet by Daniel Libeman
Introducing Vivaldi by Roland Vernon
Top Ten American Womens Olympic Gold Medalists by Kristin Ditchfield

Orangutans by Patricia A Finkmartin
Old Bob's Brown Bear by Niki Daly
Jesse Bear What Will You Wear by Nancy White Carlstrom
Angelina and the Butterfly by Katherine Holabird
Over and Over by Charlotte Zolotow
How the Ox Star Fell From Heaven by Lily Toy Hong
Oma's Quilt by Paulette Bourgeois
Birthday Blessings by Dandi Daley MacKall
Pooh's Colorful Shapes by Disney
Bethlehems Busy by Reader's Digest

Blessings everywhere by Dandi Daley MacKall
Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
Benny and the Binky by by Barbro Lindgren
Baby's Games by McClanahan
Angelina Ballerina's ABC by Katherine Holabird
Tigger's Breakfast by AA Milne
The Wheels on the Bus by Paul Zelinsky
Little Bear by Elise Holmlund Minarik
Baby Sister says No by Mercer Mayer
The Butterfly Alphabet by Jell Sandved

Badgers by Joan Kalbacken
Courdoroy by Don Freeman
Teddy Bear by AA Milne
Famous Bears and Friends by Janet Wyman Coleman (selections from)
Butterflies Fly by Yvonne Winer
The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco (a new mommy favorite - good book)
Ships and Boats byy Arlene Molzahn
Bees by Larry Dane Brimmer
Dance at Grandpa's by Laura Ingalls Wilder
B is for Bethlehem by Isabel Wilner

Paddington Bear by Michael Bond
Get Ready to Play Tee Ball by Jan Cheripko
Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
The Jewel Heart by Barbara Berger
Bread and Jam by Russell Hoban
The Mitten by Jan Brett
Animal Babies by Ann Squire
Dance at Grandpa's by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Flopsy Bunnies by Beatrix Potter
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon (about a bat)

A Pair of Red Sneakers by Lisa Lawston
THe Busy Building Book by Sue Tarsky
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
Blueberry Shoe by Ann Dixon
The Wide Mouthed Frog by Keith Faulkner
LIttle Bear's Visit by Else Minarik
Your Blood by Anita Ganeri
One Bean by Anne Rockwell
Bear Cub by Pam Pollack
The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco (a new favorite)

Beautiful Butterfly by Marta Berowska
If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff
Bert and the Broken Teapot by Tish Sommers
Blackberry Surprise by Walt Disney Winnie the Pooh
The Ugly Stepsisters by Walt Disney

Reads in Progress:

Little House in Big Woods by Laura Ingalls
Put Me in the Zoo by Dr Suess
Hop on Pop by Dr Suess
Bob Books First
Primary Phonics Readers Set 1
The Star Wars Storybook by Geraldine Richelson
The Storybook Bible by Karyn Henley
Winnie the Pooh Bedtime Stories by Walt Disney

Reference Books we are using:

Christian Liberty Nature Reader by Christian Liberty Press
What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know by Hirsch
Spectrum Math Grade K
Usborne Art Ideas Drawing Animals
The Usborne World Atlas
McGraw Hill Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills Grade K
Magellan A Voyage Around the World by Fiona McDonald
Welcome to Vietnam by Yumi NG
Virginia by Gina De Angelis
Georgia OKeeffe by Ruth Thomson

The Ozone Hole by Sally Morgan
Olympic National Park by Nelson and Nelson
Ohio by Nancy Kline
Usborne Book of Origami
The Man Who Made Parks by Frida Wishinsky
The Book of Virtues for Young People by William J Bennet
The Oregon Trail by R. Conrad Stein
Botticelli by Mike Venezia
US President's Feats and Foul-ups by Nell Fuqua
Bridges by Elaine Landau

The Butterfly Jar Poems by Jeff Moss
BMX Bicycles by Barbara Knox
Beetles by Dwight Kuhn
George Bush 41 President of the US by June Behrens
Petersons Guide for Young Naturalists Backyard Birds by Johnathen Latimer
Ann Bancroft On Top of the World by Dorothy Wenzel
Bats by Celia Bland
Introducing Beethoven by Roland Vernon

Books on Tape:
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis
Prince Caspain by CS Lewis
Charlie and the chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Last updates Feb 28, 2004

February 28, 2004

Reading to our kids

I often get asked how we read so much with so many small children and do they really listen? On the average day we listen to about 10 books a day (usually 4 non-fiction and 6 storybooks though this varies). So I sat down to try to think about how we do it. We have three usual reading times: first thing in the morning, before or after nap, and in the late afternoon before dinner. At those times each child gets to pick one book and then I pick one or two (so we are reading 3-4 books at each time). When they get to pick books they often pick their favorites from their rooms or the bookshelves - I don't care if those are from the letter of the week - though my choice almost always is. I keep all the books from the library and books from our own collection that correspond with the letter of the week in a special box near where we read and the kids can ask at any time to read from those books and I almost always say yes. After we have read a book I don't think they will want to read again I record the title on our reading list (I often miss titles believe it or not) and then put in our library returns bag. We also usually read chapter books at night or sometimes during quiet/naptime. And of course there are the books I use during "lessons" though our lessons often occur during our reading time.

A friend was over yesterday and she was shocked at how many books we check out of the library at a time and reminded me that I am tying up that many books at a time. My response was that we read these in one week and usually always return them the next week, sometimes I hold some for two weeks. We just read alot and I feel that is what the library is there for. We try to only take one book on a subject so there are others there and we have more variety.

I have finally settled into a system at the library. While the kids play and browse I go through the non-fiction section and am sure to grab atleast one book on the following subjects: an artist, a composer (or musician), a scientist, inventor or explorer, a politician or famous person, a location (country, continent, state), a sport or hobby, an animal or creature, a science concept, a historical event or place, and a biblical story (though we have many of these resources at home already), and when appropriate an upcoming holiday, month or season. I usually grab a poetry or short story collection that also coincides with our letter of the upcoming week. Then I browse the fiction bins for storybooks on the subjects I have picked up or just that relate to the letter in some way. Often I choose a children's illustrator or author to focus on as well. For instance next week when we do C we will look at Eric Carle. Then we check out and I keep the books for next week in the suitcase until Monday morning when I switch out the books from the previous week (that have not yet been returned) and put the books where the kids can choose from them.

Yes my children do listen to these books. Rhiannon probably feels I don't read to her enough believe it or not. Ciaran sometimes tires of it but always plays nearby and I believe is still listening. Occasionally if a book we have picked up is too advanced for them (sometimes I do this for pictures and to summarize material) we will just talk about it and look at it instead of reading it. Sirah is getting a little more challenging now. She used to just nurse and sleep through them, then she sat on my lap, now she wants to grab more. I find sitting on the floor and giving her books of her own to play with helps as does interspersing little board books that we read to her.

Reading is just an integral part of our family's days (sometimes we slack on the weekends when we follow a different schedule) and it is a part my children love. We have read to them since day one, books for them, books they listen to because of their siblings and things we are reading adults (when not inappropriate) Rhiannon needs to read every day from her phonics books, this is often to one of her siblings and all the children have quiet time where they look at their books. Rhiannon would bring every book into her bed if we would let her to avoid bed - but we only allow them their bibles in bed (picture ones) except on occasion when we allow an extra book or two.

The kids see us read all the time and they go to the library and are surrounded by books in our home library, their schoolroom shelves and the books strewn throughout the house. So I guess it is hard to explain - it truly isn't like I set a quota for us to meet each week - it just ends up that we read a lot. There are days where we read less and days we read 20 books - but all in all it is just the way we live. The kids love learning and hearing stories - they create their imaginary play from the stories they hear and ask for their favorites over and over again. We listen to books on tape in the car (currently Black Beauty) and Rhiannon carries around a little tape deck that goes through batteries like crazy because she listens to the various Chronicles of Narnia books by CS Lewis (unabridged) throughout the week over and over again. When we finish those we will pick another literature series. I guess reading is not something we work at - it is something all the members of our house truly enjoys.

B week... We are finishing up B week today. Some things we have focused on this week include: bats, balance, baseball, basketball, the color blue, bears (teddy and real ones), baking, Beethoven, Bach, President Bush and Former President Bush, building (especially with blocks), bridges, bugs and backyard exploration.

The weather is finally warming up here (in the 40's) and the kids have been outside more, we even took our first family walk through our new neighborhood last night. Normally we would have been out before now but Sirah is still just 6 months old and I don't like to keep her out in the cold too long.

We had our weekly library visit and got some strange looks. I now wheel in one of those luggage bags with a handle for all our books. It is much easier than trying to carry all the books while holding Sirah and managing the other two. Sometimes I wonder what people think behind those stares of disbelief it appears we are receiving as I fill the bag with book after book). I guess I don't really care because I am doing what is best for our family. But I know it does look crazy sometimes. We really do read them all. I'm going to continue this in another post though.


Kentucky Alert.

Kentucky has a new piece of legislation just introduced that would encourage "voluntary" certification of homeschools. Some issues it covers are: minimum teacher qualifications, minimum curriculum offerings, and minimum testing requirements. To read the bill: 04RS HB610.

Those in Kentucky get the phones ringing and shoot this down.


Hat tip to Daryl for the story.

February 27, 2004

Virginia Update

Kudos to homeschooling activists in Virginia and to their legislature. Last night the measure to relax homeschooling qualifications made it through the Senate committee.

"The Education and Health Committee voted 8-7 Thursday to endorse a bill allowing parents with a high school diploma to homeschool their children. "

To read more, visit here.


Minnesota update

An article today is reporting that:

"Minnesota Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke criticized a new report Thursday that predicts 80 percent to 100 percent of the state's elementary schools will fail to meet federal proficiency standards by 2014, saying the projection is "wildly off.''

But Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles defended his agency's assessment of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, saying his staff was careful not too make too dire or optimistic predictions."

To read the audit yourself, visit here.

To keep up with the status of the legislation to remove Minnesota from the No Child Left Behind Act, visit here.

To read more about the issue in general, visit The Saint Paul Pioneer Press.

Well Obviously... An article today reads:

"A Lovington father who was scheduled to serve his daughter's in school detention has been reprieved. School officials came to his home yesterday with a letter of apology in hand."

I'm sorry but the response is of course he doesn't need to serve detention for his daughter (who should not have had to serve it in the first place) and it was time the school got a clue! Kudos to the dad for standing up for his daughter and not allowing her to serve detention for his decision to keep her home due to dangerously cold weather. Shame on the school for trying to enforce it. What a ludicrous world we live in sometimes. Read more: here.

Preschool for Parents... Interesting program just opened in a Florida school district. It is essentially an open classroom for preschoolers (defined birth-6 years) and their parents. It is a drop in center where parents can play with their kids and learn about how to teach them.

I have mixed feelings - it is good that they are involving parents and trying to help give them strategies to play with and teach their child. I am always for parental involvement. However, certain phrases in the article send up warning flags to me. Consider:

"District officials hope to target parents who don't send their children to preschool. More than half of the state's nearly 1.2 million children ages 3 to 5 are not enrolled in preschool or child care, according to a new report released by the California Research Bureau."


" The center is called LISTOS, which means "ready" in Spanish and stands for Linking Individual Students to Oceanside Schools. "

Granted I may be sensitive to certain things - but the way I read it - this program helps get kids "linked" into the system as early as birth if possible. It also seems to be critical of the fact that half of the children ages 3-5 are not in either day-care or preschool. A good thing in many cases I would contend.

I know that this program can help many families, I am just cautious about it due to some of the language in the article. However, I do support helping parents learn how to play and teach their young children.

Another quote from the article that jumped out at me was "By age 5 a child can easily sit through a 10-minute story." Perhaps my perception is completely skewed but my 3 year old can sit through longer stories than that. I guess it is a good goal to have a 5 year old sit through a 10 minute book at a minimum, but I think our kids can and want to do more. Why is it accepted that a child as young as 2 should be able to sit through 30 minutes to an hour of television but we struggle to get our 5 year olds to listen to 10 minutes of a story? _sigh_

You can read more


February 26, 2004

Thoughts from the floor... Sitting on the hall floor of a local grammar school outside the door of a friend’s classroom. She is a teacher of second grade. This friend is taking continuing education classes and asked if she could use Rhiannon as a testing subject. As the test does not collect any personal information about her we agreed. It is a reading readiness exam. It is interesting to listen to how she responds to someone else asking her questions. On some things she is so enthusiastic and excited to answer and on other things she starts asking questions almost like she is avoiding answering the question or wants to answer a different one.

Sometimes when we homeschool I wonder if she is more difficult or easier on me. I am finding right now that she is being much more difficult for our friend than she is for me. Rhiannon truly is a strong willed child and I love working with her. I know that I know how to work with her because I spend so much time with her. It does make me thankful that we are able to spend so much one on one time together, I think she really benefits from that.

Serona made me agree before we let her help out our friend that I would not be upset by whatever the results were. I promised that I would not be and part of me is like I don’t even want to know what she thinks, yet another part of me is curious. Of course we all think our own children are smart so we are to a point biased. I know that no matter what this woman tells me that I am so pleased with Rhiannon. She has done so well and has such a love of learning and I am truly enjoying working with her.

I love that I hear “You know what my mother told me?” and then she proudly shares the information. She refers to me as her teacher and I do love hearing that. I hope that she is always so excited – though I know things will change over time. The natural progression is to just believe everything we are told by our parents, then to start to question it, then to question and disagree with everything only to find ourselves slowly cycle back to recognizing how wise they truly are. I am assuming that the progression is still the same even in homeschooling.

Just some random thoughts that came to me tonight.

All of Minnesota Left Behind... Here is some news that just reinforces our decision to homeschool. A recent report will estimate that "80 percent to 100 percent of Minnesota's school districts will not meet expectations of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, according to a state official familiar with the report."

The report will be released today to the House Education Policy Committee. What is interesting is that Minnesota also "ranks at or near the top on many national student-achievement measures" according to the article.

This report is expected to increase a push for Minnesota to pull out of the National Program. Last week the Senate Education Committee tentatively passed "that would pull the state out of the federal education program, a move that would jeopardize $175 million to $240 million annually in federal funds."

To read more see the Saint Paul Pioneer Press.


February 25, 2004

Today's roundup... We had Ciaran's preschool friends over today for a short lesson. I decided to try a different approach and have a more active lesson. As our family is working through B this week - we centered our activities around B. The kids played basketball and bounced the ball to one another and attempted to make the sound B while shooting baskets (this did not go over so well), they built with blocks and went through the items in our B box.

We traced the letter B on sandpaper, felt and foamboard and then the kids drew the letter B in rice, flour and oatmeal taking turns. They seemed to enjoy that part. I just put a big tablecloth on the floor and sat down with them and three bowls. Two of them kept going a little longer and then drew pictures that started with B like bird and ball and bee - though Ciarans favorite was the frog he made. The oatmeal and flour went over better than the rice.

Then we had a marching band (which was loud but fun) and even the older siblings got involved with that activity. The older kids also had B printout books for practicing writing B words and pictures to color. The younger kids left with some B coloring pages and a printout from Letter of the Week.

We had snack and played "Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See" with some printouts I got here. By that point several children (namely my own) were nearing meltdown points and having a difficult time and everyone headed home. I was by that point wiped out and Rhiannon and Ciaran were just at each other just to be that way it seemed. It was as if Ciaran said "The sky is blue" she would say "No it isn't" just to be contrary. I tried coloring that did not work, I tried reading that did not work. So we had lunch and then off for naps (that is what was needed).

The afternoon went better, Rhiannon and I had some storytime and then she read to me from "Ben Bug" in the Primary Phonics Storybooks Set 1. We played with Sirah - then with Ciaran and then we played memory all together for awhile. Ciaran played with play-doh while Rhiannon made a ballerina crown and then finished writing out her B words from this morning. We played a math game I call "number before" where I give a number and she needs to tell me the one before. She got them all right up to about 15 - and she was fuzzy on some of the teens. We listened to Bach and Beethoven. We had such a peaceful afternoon that I allowed them to watch a movie while I make dinner and type up this review.

In defense of homeschooling and apprenticeships... This morning Serona pointed out an article he found last night on foxnews. The author takes on the following issue:

Parents who wish to explore educational alternatives at their own expense should be encouraged to do so, yet the opposite is occurring. Advocates of public schooling view other systems of education as threats to be regulated, discouraged and sometimes demonized. (Often the income and careers of these advocates depend upon the continued tax funding of public schools.)

Is there any validity to their criticism of educational alternatives?

Two of the most viable ones are homeschooling and apprenticeships. Neither prevents anyone from choosing public schools; each merely offers a choice at no public expense. How could anyone reasonably object to that?

The author answers answers concerns that public school is necessary for literacy, that they harm public schools and harm children (the child abuse cover-up non-argument). The author does a nice job and the article is worth a read.
She concludes with:

Apprenticeships, experiments like Montessori and the School of Living, self-guided education, mentoring ...The cost of public education is not measured in tax dollars alone. A universe of educational possibilities has been obstructed by the attempt to enforce a government monopoly over how, where, when, and what children learn.

Check out The Separation of School and State.


February 24, 2004

Blogopoly... I think this is great fun! A blogger has created "blogopoly" yes it is monopoly with blogs for pieces, cards and properties. This is something you really need to see for yourself. Check out Aaron's BLOGOPOLY.

B week... I have pretty limited blogging time this week. We are cruising through B week. So far we have made a good dent in our reading list (see the end of Feb reading list) and have a nice B sound box in progress (current items: banana, bears (teddy, and stuffed brown and black, picture of polar and plastic panda), balls (basketball and brown ball), a blue item and a black item, baby doll, beanbag, block, butterfly, book, bucket, and a few others I am forgetting) we will continue adding to it throughout the week. We have listed to Beethoven and are studying Boticello this week. We are talking about a lot of different animals (bears, badgers, bees, butterflies, bugs, beavers and birds to name a few), we will talk about baseball and basketball. The butterfly puzzle and life cycles and a few books were science time today, we will follow it up tomorrow with stained glass coloring pictures of butterflies. We also did some online painting of butterflies, bears and several great works of art online at Enchanted Learning. The kids really love the online painting and the interactive online dictionary there, I also think they have great coloring pages and fact sheets for older kids and they have a variety of languages available.

Ciaran and I played a lot today - it was nice to have some special time with him (Rhiannon had a dr's appointment and Serona took her) we took advantage of the time and just focused on playing blocks, cars and with his animals. We also wrestled and tickled (which I hardly ever do) and of course we had some special cuddle and reading time together. It was nice. I also spent some time like that with Sirah today singing her nursery rhymes, talking to her and just sitting on floor by her side as she played with her toys. I tried reading to her but she mostly ate the books.

tomorrow we have Ciaran's preschool cooperative on the letter B and then on Thursday we have a field trip centered around the letter B. I need to head off to help the little ones to sleep.


West Virginia update... A proposed law in W. Virginia would "require every child in the state to have a record of compulsory immunizations. The legislation, Senate Bill 439, stipulates "any parent or guardian who refuses to permit his or her child to be immunized" would face a criminal charge."
The text of the bill can be found here. It could be voted on this week. For more information read this World Net article.

Alaska update... Daryl over at Homeschool & Other Education Stuff has a nice write-up on a new house bill in Alaska to "require all Alaskan school-age children to carry a tracking number that would enable the state to ensure every child is receiving an education."

The homeschool community once again got the phones ringing in response to Alaska House Bill 437 and "Carl Gatto, who chairs the House Special Committee on Education, said his office had to prepare a canned response. Gatto also said Chenault indicated that he may withdraw the bill in the future."

The editorial Daryl is blogging on can be found here. The actual text of the bill can be found here. To see a list of the Representatives to contact on the House Special committee on Education visit here.


February 21, 2004

Kudos to Idaho homeschool community... Nice job on the recent proposed Idaho truancy bill that I posted about here. The legislation has been pulled by the writer of the bill. The reason stated in this article:
"Considerable pressure from the state's home-schooling community prompted Stegner to pull the bill on Friday."

Another victory for homeschoolers in local politics. Combined with the recent victory in Minnesota on tax breaks and homeschooling freedoms. For more information about the issue read this post.

It just shows you that the homeschool community is strong and active. That is a good thing! From responding to networks to putting pressure on our local politicians to protect our right - we are fighting the good fight. Thanks!


February 20, 2004

Taking a Break... Been an emotionally draining evening. Need a break from blogging will be back on Monday.

Read Across America... This NEA event is scheduled to take place on March 2, 2004. It coincides with the 100th birthday of Dr. Suess. Perhaps your family or homeschool group would consider taking part.

For more information visit NEA: NEA's Read Across America .


February 19, 2004

Overview of our curriculum... I was recently asked about what we do for our schooling and after writing out a long response I decided to post it here as well - for the homeschool record - as that is what I started this blog as (our homeschool records) though it has grown since then. So for those of you interested - this is our basic weekly plan:

We base our weeks around a single letter - I call it "playing with the letter". We do some consistent things each week and then add a lot of variety depending on the subject.
-I use Jane Belk Moncure's My "sound Box" series - one book for nearly every letter of the alphabet. My kids love these books.
-We read that at the beginning of each week and then we keep our own soundbox - a cardboard box the kids can collect objects that start with our letter for the week. They love putting things in there, taking it out and getting to show dad what is in their box.
-We also keep a word list of all the words we use that week that start with the letter.
-We listen to a composer and look at art from an artist (this is in addition to the composer and artist we study for 3 months at a time)
-The kids draw items in their nature notebook when appropriate - my youngest just scribbles but he labels it and he is drawing it in his mind
-We try to coordinate all our activities (math, science, stories, field trips, even play activities and crafts) around that letter
-my oldest does handwriting practice on that letter
-We use the www.letteroftheweek.com as well - but I only use it as a springboard
-Every week I take my kids (age 4, 3 and 6 months) to the library for an hour - the older two get to play a computer game while me and the baby walk around the non-fiction and fiction section and collect all the books we are interested in that start with next weeks letter. There are some consistent things we find: an artist, a musician, a historic figure, an animal, a science concept, a geographical location and a sport or activity. We often find many other subjects that interest us - then I browse the fiction section for stories about our subject or with titles that have the next week's letter in it. We read a lot (on average 10 books a day)
-Each week we visit www.enchantedlearning.com and go through their interactive dictionary of the letter we are on.
-We printout coloring sheets and crafts for the letter
-We do a scripture memorization for the week and a bible story
-We try to coordinate our field trips with the letter (I choose the letter after our homeschool group chooses the activity)
-On good weeks I remember to make a collage at the end of the week with pictures from the letter
-I mostly try to consistently point out the letter whenever possible and ask the kids what words start with it or to find it or if they have ideas of what to do next. We really do try to keep it light and fun.
-Each week I place our library books in one section of the house and the kids can always ask to read a book from that stack. I try to remove the ones we have already read so they get a lot of variety. I of course let them hear their favorites again and again. I try to make it through 3-4 non fiction books a day (sometimes I paraphrase or only point out the most interesting information and let them look at the pictures).
-Rhiannon reads a phonics book each day
-Rhiannon practices Irish step dance a few times a week
-We read a chapter book before bed (current: Little House in Big Woods and Frog and Toad, we just finished "The Chronicles of Narnia")
-We listen to books on tape in the car (current Black Beauty and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) - I try to chose good literature unabridged when available.

As I type this out I realize that it sounds like a tremendous undertaking and pretty excessive for a 3 and 4 year old - but I have discovered that my kids love it and we just incorporate it into our day - it is the way we live. I don't often call it "school" time as they are often not as excited by that. Sometimes I do and they often ask to do "School" stuff - but mostly we just live and play with the letter. I try to make it as natural of a process as possible for them. We take hiatuses and we play alot. We are a reading family and we watch very little TV. My husband and I just try to create an environment where learning is a natural and exciting and expected part of life. I do very little "prep" or planning time and I learn right along with them. I don't expect them to retain much (though I am always amazed at what they do) - we are just trying to expose them to as much as possible while they are interested in it. We are having fun and learning together.

A Walk in an Orchid Greenhouse... Our homeschool group took a field trip to an orchid nursery today - what a great trip for winter in Minnesota. It was so nice, warm, bright and fragrant in there that one would never want to leave. Too bad it wasn't planned for the -24 day we had a few weeks ago. We are actually experiencing a heat wave here - nearing 40 degrees!

But I digress - the tour was excellent. It was amazing to see how many different kinds of orchids there are and how long they take to grow. It really gives you perspective on the reason they are so expensive (they take an average 3 years to bloom) and so beautiful.

Rhiannon had prepped a little ahead of time - last night we spent about 30 minutes online looking at a variety of orchids and learning some basic facts. We also printed out an orchid coloring page and two color photos of her favorites for her portfolio. We discussed where orchids grow and what colors there are and how many different species there are.

Today on the tour the guides asked some of those very questions and shared those facts - it was nice for once to have been ahead of the game.

Here is what Rhiannon had to say (dictated by her typed by me):

"Today I saw a pink sky orchid and I liked it and it had mommy and daddy orchids as well. I learned that orchids can grow in any state and they can't grow in Antartica. Orchids come in any color except black. I remember there were 10,000 different kinds of orchids. I would like to send this message to all the people of the world. I want to tell you something very exciting - at the end of the tour we got to see lamas and we also got flowers. Friends I think you should take a tour of the greenhouse and explore all the flowers. It's so good. Love, Rhiannon. "
Character Building... Here is a new website from the US Dept. of Education dedicated to helping build character. Check out Character Education & Civic Engagement Technical Assistance Center.

I took this description right off their website:
"Welcome to the Character Education and Civic Engagement Technical Assistance Center (CETAC) website, CETAC Online! Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education's (ED) Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools (OSDFS), CETAC Online provides State program administrators, local educators, and the public with information on character education and civic engagement, as well as strategies that support academic goals and other reform efforts. "


February 18, 2004

NBC's 'Law and Order - Special Victims Unit' and Homeschooling... Being the non-TV watching family we are, a friend let us know about last night's TV show and the negative depiction of homeschoolers. Apparently this episode of Law and Order SVU depicted homeschooling as a potential cover for child abuse and highlighted "lack of regulations" in many states.

Just months after the battle with CBS over similar issues - here we go again. Now I know this is a show and not a news program like CBS was - but still with the lines between entertainment and reality being so fuzzy these days - how many people will walk away believing that as a realistic view of homeschooling families? I hope the answer is not many - however it still can not be tolerated.

Here we go again with the contact info:

The Show via email: LawOrderSVU@nbc.com

Or contact Jeffery Zucker, president of NBC Entertainment through the following means:

Jeffrey Zucker -- NBC Broadcasting - Entertainment
Title: President, NBC Entertainment
Department: Headquarters
E-mail: jeff.zucker@nbc.com
Phone: (818) 840-4444
Address: Viewer Relations, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112-

Care of Citizens Link.

To read more visit HSLDA | NBC's Law and Order SVU Smears Homeschooling.

Let's get those phones ringing again.

Blogging Tips... The godfather of blogs Glenn Reynolds has some advice and opinions on the next wave of blogging. Check it out here.

Minnesota standards... Not directly related to homeschooling but the new social studies standards have been getting a lot of attention recently so I thought I would post a link if you wanted more information.

For an overview check out this article. For the actual documents look here.

Idaho homeschool legislation... There is an important piece of legislation being evaluated in Idaho - that we should all pay attention to. The bill calls for "comparable coursework" without defining what that means. It would make parents susceptable to a misdemeanant charge if found to not be "comparable."

This is the type of legislation that is most concerning to me. In the name of protecting children from parents who "falsely" claim to be schooling their kids - the put increased regulations on all parents. Serona tried to make light of it (he takes it seriously though) and said so are they going to charge parents because they are teaching their kids "too much" since that certainly won't be comparable either?

The current changes being proposed can be found on the Idaho Senate page under SENATE BILL NO. 1233.

Daryl and Izzy have been following this debate much closer and you should check them out. Also here is a recent news article.

Why should you be concerned if you don't live in Idaho? Because the same issue could soon find itself in your state and we need to be aware of homeschooling legislation as it occurs and learn the means by which to defend our rights to homeschool.

Music Education... Interesting article on teaching toddlers and preschoolers music. The article discusses briefly the Suzuki method and benefits of early education. Check out: Music program helps little ones build social skills.


February 17, 2004

Congratulations... A great big CONGRATS to Anne over at Our Homeschool on the birth of her newest student. Many blessings on your new baby and the whole family.

Great Animal Resources... We began our "O" week today. Yesterday we focused on president's day all day and had a nice theme day. We had a very slow start to the morning - the kids got to watch their first video in almost two weeks - they watched Milo and Otis that was the only movie they could find with O at the beginning. Then we read several library books on O subjects - including our usual overview sound box book by Jane Belk Moncure. I enjoy doing "sound box" lesson plans around her books. We discussed several other subjects and read and looked at picture books.

We built a race track and a castle out of wood blocks. We had free imaginary playtime and I took turns reading to the kids books of their choosing - will be listed in updated reading list. I sang nursery rhymes to Sirah and played games with her. Rhiannon and Ciaran took turns doing her flashcards with her. Ciaran did 4 puzzle books and some coloring sheets.

During naptime Rhiannon and I did computer work. We worked on Enchanted Learning'sinteractive dictionary and explored several layers into some subjects. Then Rhia wanted to focus on animals and we went searching for real video and audio clips of orangutans, octupi, ocelots, orioles, and otters. We listened to them, watched live video and sent photo postcards to family - she dictated the messages and I typed.

Two great resources for these activities are Creature Features and Jungle Walk. They have a wide selection of animals and activities and my kids really enjoyed it.

Off to afternoon responsibilities.

Politically Incorrect Reading... A college professor has recently published a book by titled A Reader for the Politically Incorrect. He published this in response to history texts such as ReReading America which is commonly used in colleges and touts itself as calling into question foundations held by people such as:

(1) the nuclear family is the only solid basis for society;

(2) education empowers all citizens;

(3) success is solely the product of hard work;

(4) gender roles are biologically rather than culturally determined;

(5) America is a melting pot, where people from different cultures blend together to form a homogeneous whole; and

(6) America is seen throughout the world as a land of liberty and freedom.

Dr. Zilbergeld says he wrote the book because "Students just aren't getting the good stuff anymore."

Personally I have not read either book (yet) but thought it was an interesting subject to bring to your attention. To read more visit Politically Incorrect Reading.


February 16, 2004

President's Day Lesson Plan... Today for president's day we spent some time online going through pictures and facts about the president's of the US. Rhiannon already knew who our president and vice-president were, but she enjoyed learning about the others. I just mostly did picture name and dates (knowing she will not retain much of this at this point). A nice site to find this information can be found here. This site has thumbnail pictures of all the presidents and then click through links to a larger photo and a simple fact sheet.

We also spent a good deal of time on the Enchanted Learning. Here you can find a complete text link of president, vice-president and dates of service as well as many activities and crafts to do. We printed out books on Lincoln, Washington and George W Bush as well as coloring pages of the White House and Mt Rushmore. We also talked about memorials - the Washington monument and the Lincoln memorial. You can find much of this material here.

We also took a virtual tour of the white house on the official White House homepage. Rhiannon thought that was really neat. She asked if she could go visit Washington DC and thought it was neat that I have spent time there. I told her when she was older we could go.

Then she asked if she could say a prayer for the president and our government (I kid you not and with no prompting). Here is her prayer:

"Dear Jesus,
Thank you for our president
please give him wisdom
help him to explain the hard things and to be wise
keep him safe.
In Jesus name - Amen"

I must say I am very proud of her and it was very touching to me. She is only 4 years old - and it makes the statements about "the faith of a child" make so much sense. Then she asked me to pray for the president as well.

Some other resources you may want to look into are: White House Kids and Fun Brain Presidential Picture Quiz.

A Fun Experiment... Here's one for all the unschoolers and those who love teaching with real life examples. Recently a physics professor who loves M&M's the candy made a discovery through his passion for the candy.

Read about the physics of the random packing of particles as demonstrated by M&M's here: M&M's obsession leads to physics discovery.

A New Carnival... For followers of Carnival of the Vanities and political buffs - this may be of interest. My post on the cost of kindergarten just made the Carnival of the Bush bloggers. I did not submit to this - they just started it this week and my post was picked. Check it out.

Cost of Kindergarten... An article this morning puts the price tag of some private K-12 programs at more a year than college (approaching IVY league status). It also talks about parents paying 5,000 to have their children coached for the interviews as the entrance process is tight (15 people applying for one seat in some cases).

Don't get me wrong I am all for my kids getting a great education (thus we homeschool) and I can not imagine what the public school system looks like in Manhattan and the Bronx. But at 26,000 a year - wow!

I am just honestly amazed that schools can charge this much for kindergarten. Personally, I was appalled when a top notch Montessori school in our area wanted a little over 3,000 a year for a half day program. I can't even begin to imagine paying 26,000 a year for one! I'm just trying to imagine what I could do as a homeschooling mom with 26,000 a year on to educate my child (and this is per child). I guess I would no longer need a wish list for books!

I know homeschooling isn't for everyone and that parents just want the best for their child - but really how can a school charge 26,000 a year a child for K? The answer - there is clearly demand - as these programs are very hard to get into. All I can say is "my word" and I hope the kids really are getting an excellent education at that price tag. For our family the library, the answer box (aka the computer), and a few good hands-on resources will be just fine.

Read more: Private kindergarten tuition in N.Y. more than $26,000.


February 15, 2004

University of Left Politics... Sadly this is not the name of a new university but rather a description of MANY universities throughout the country. It seems that universities are becoming more and more havens and training camps for left politics. Of course many universities will deny this (though some honest ones are finally admitting it) or claim it is all in the name of diversity. A recent article I read makes several very good points, including this one:

"Should you visit a modern university campus, you will encounter the 'diversity' mantra so mind-numbingly often you will want to scream. What you will not encounter is a kind of diversity that matters most in the academic context: diversity of thought on the most fundamental issues of religion, morality, and politics."

Dr. Feser does a nice job outlining several proposed theories as to why this occurs. I'm not sure I agree with him on many if any. Personally I find his philosopher king and the "survival of the left-est" theory the most appealing.

Having been a Christian independent with both conservative and liberal tendencies (depending on the issue) I certainly experienced first hand this "bias" of higher education. It was not limited to the schools I went to either. Being in the debate community and other intercollegiate activities I was exposed to students and faculty from a wide variety of schools and often found the same phenomenon occurring.

If this subject interests you I recommend Why Are Universities Dominated by the Left?
By Edward Feser. This article provides interesting reading, food for thought and a jumping off point.

V week lesson plan... Well I am never able to write our lesson plan before we begin it - so I thought I could write it for you after we finished it. The following is a summary by keyword of topics we covered and studied this week (to varying degrees). Some subjects we simply discussed what they were or looked at a picture or read a book about it. Other subjects we really delved into like volcanoes: making one, reading several books, discussing them, searching the internet for them and incorporating them into the kids play. We looked at art and listened to music from several artists this week while continuing our study of Monet and Vivaldi. Everything on this list we spent at least a bit of time on. I do not claim my kids understand all these concepts - nor will they retain all the knowledge they received this week - but I want them to be exposed to as much as possible and start creating those mental hangposts to later put the knowledge on. I am also always amazed at how much they truly do retain. It was an interesting and fun week and I was surprised at how much we were able to pull out of the letter V.

ScienceVolcanoes, Vultures, Vegetables, Voyager Space Probe, Venus, Violets, velociraptor,

Geography Vietnam, Venezuela, Virginia, Vermont

History Valentine's Day, Voyages (Magellan and Christopher Columbus), Vikings, Vespucci,

The Arts: Music, Art, Poetry Vivaldi, Van Gogh, Vermeer, Child's Book of Garden Verses, Roses are Red, violin,
Math: vertical lines, volume,

PE/Health Dr's visit, vegetarian, vegan, vetrenarian, vitamins

Misc: Volunteering, Vacations, Video Games (Educational), Darth Vader (star wars), vehicles, vowels, vacuum, bible verse memorization

Literature Related to V (aka our partial reading list):

A Castle on Viola Street by Disalvo (nice book on volunteering)
Eva's Summer Vacation:A Story of the Czech Republic by Jan Machalek
The Best Book of Volcanoes by Simon Adams
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
Volcanoes:Nature's Incredible Fireworks by David Harrison
Mary Veronica's Egg by Mary Nethery
Strega Nona Takes a Vacation by Tomie dePaola
Vultures by Lynn M Stone
Vincent Van Gogh by Jen Green
Vegetable Garden by Douglas Florian

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by eric Carle
The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle
Winnie the Pooh's Valentine by Bruce Talkington
Johannes Vermeer by Mike Venezia
The Vikings by Peter Chrisp
The Voyager Space Probes by Dennis Fradin
My V book by Jane Belk Moncure
Valentine's Day by Miriam Nerlove
Valentine's Day by Gail Gibbons
Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert

The Skywalker family albulm by Alice Alfonsi (darth vader)
The Star Wars Storybook by Geraldine Richelson
Magellan A Voyage Around the World by Fiona McDonald
Welcome to Vietnam by Yumi NG
Virginia by Gina De Angelis

Non-V related activities: Addition, Subtraction, Number Recognition, Shapes (ciaran), reading bob books and primary phonics and dr suess (rhiannon), scavenger hunt, baking cookies, playing math games, bible study and the other things I can't remember.


February 14, 2004

Parents Give Up More Control... In yet another step for schools to "protect" themselves from "frivolous lawsuits" they are asking parents to sign far reaching liability waivers - absolving the schools of any responsibility. Not only do these waivers free the schools from any responsibility, they prevent parents from taking the school district to court and apply to ALL activities a child participates in for the ENTIRETY of their attendance at the school. Parents need to pay attention to what they are signing away. It used to be a joke that you were signing away your firstborn - one begins to wonder if we are growing ever closer to this through subtle steps like this one. Homeschooling parents can breath another sigh of relief. Read more at Parents balk on student waivers.


February 13, 2004

Daily Rewards... Well I may not have a boss or co-workers telling me "good job" but I find my rewards far greater. Each day my baby Sirah wakes up with the biggest smile to see me and she cooes and kicks her legs with excitement as I pick her up. Ciaran climbs into my lap throughout the day for snuggles, hugs or just to be close. Rhiannon would like nothing better than to sit on my lap and read all day long.

My rewards come in the form of a baby's smile, a preschooler counting to 10, a 4 year old reading books to her younger siblings. My rewards come from Serona saying "great job" and my kids sloppy kisses and warm hugs. My rewards come from the napping baby on my chest and the happy kids still in their pj's. My rewards may seem small to many - but they are the greatest to me.

My ultimate reward will of course come later when I hear the words "well done good and faithful servant" from my Lord. I'm sure over the years the form my rewards take will vary - and yet it will always be the same. Mom - thanks and I love you. Wife - thanks and I'm proud of you and I love you. Someday my kids will be well adjusted adults teaching their own kids (grandkids I can spoil) and hopefully they can find peace in the same kinds of rewards.

Dangers of Gifted Kids... Or reason 345 to homeschool. Here is an interesting story that has nothing directly to do with homeschooling. However, when I read it I just couldn't help but think - this is another benefit to homeschooling. Read What can happen to bored gifted students, and then thank yourself that you can offer opportunities and challenges to your gifted students.

Don't get me wrong I don't truly buy the theory that all gifted kids without outlets will turn to violence or depression (personally I think there are a lot of other factors - including parental involvement and example that play a role). While reading the article I kept thinking about Charlotte Mason's point that all children need something to learn, something to love and something to do. I can even see this in my own children (as young as they are) that they only get into trouble really when they are bored or can't think of something to do or involve themselves with. It is an interesting point to consider and yet another reason to be thankful we homeschool.

Hooray Minnesota... The recent House Bill 1787 is NOT going to get a hearing. From an email I received:

> I have assurance from the Speaker of the House, Steve Swiggum, that the
> Greiling bill (HF 1787) which would have added regulations to all
> nonpublic schools, students and families will not get a hearing.
> Please stop calls and letters to legislators. They will not be
> necessary
> and an "avalanche" of contacts can be interpreted negatively.
> Thanks,
> Pam von Gohren
> Minnesotans Instructing Children at Home

So thanks for all your calls and activism - it is nice to know that Minnesotans are good at homeschool activism when necessary.


February 12, 2004

Minnesota Update... After spending the past hour or so making 32 phone calls to the members of the House Education Committee for Minnesota it has become apparent that there is an activism in the homeschooling and private schooling community. The aides I spoke with all articulated that there have been a large number of people calling about the bill (against it) and that it was likely to not be heard. Thank you for your activism if you called.

I last spoke with Beth at Committee Chair Barb Sykora's office who assured me that Rep. Sykora has decided to table or not hear the bill! Several other aides I spoke with thought the same was likely. The only different information I heard came from an aide in Rep. Jim Davnie's office who said the bill would be amended substantially if considered. So Hooray - sounds like a good day for Minnesota homeschoolers. Thanks for your support. Of course you can still feel free to call if you want to share your opinions on the issue. Be aware that Rep. Greiling is the author of the bill when you call her office. I was thankful to hear that my local representative was firmly against it - that is always nice to know.

Valentine's Day Party and Volume... We had our homeschool class Valentine Party. 14 kids, a drumset, a piano and lots of loudness later - my head is pounding and I just want to crawl into bed! The kids however had a great time. They exchanged valentines (many were homemade) an decorated cookies. They played and some listened to a Valentine's Day story. The moms had an opportunity to chat (what we could hear of each other over the drums) and it was nice.

I was amazed at the different level of noise tolerance people have - I was at my edge and there were some there who did not seem bothered at all. And I used to think I had a high threshold for noise! Anyway it is currently quiet time in the house and I think I will head off to the library this afternoon if they get wild again - I just need peace.

Glad I don't need to explain this... I can not believe this recent story on Barbie and Ken: It's Over received news time on both foxnews and the Associated Press. At first I thought it was a joke (I'm still not 100% sure) and then I just couldn't believe this drivel was getting newstime.

Thanks to the Barbie ban in effect in our house, I need not worry about all the implications of a Barbie and Ken split. Pu-leaze! I contemplating not blogging it at all - but the ridiculousness of it was noteworthy enough to me. Just another reason to add to the hundreds I already have for why we are a "barbie-free" zone.

School recap... Yesterday we focused on Valentine's Day. We read a variety of books on the subject including one I would recommend for young children: Valentine's Day by Gail Gibbons (this gives a nice overview). We also made heart shaped valentine's cookies and finished up our Valentines for our friends. For history we studied Christopher Columbus and Magellan's voyages. We recited our poetry and continued listening to Vivaldi. We read about Darth Vader from a storybook on Star Wars and allowed the children to play an educational video game.

Rhiannon read her daily storybooks to Sirah (four bob books and one primary phonics) and then did Einstein flashcards with her. Ciaran and I spent quite a bit of time playing with vehicles and talking about them as we did. Rhiannon and I played Sorry for her mathtime and we discussed volunteering (an excellent book is "A Castle on Viola Street" by DyAnne DiSalvo) and tried to think of ideas of how we could volunteer. Ciaran and I talked about the color violet and played with the letter V on our floor mat.

All in all it was a good day. We had a dr's visit and I had a support group meeting. We had an interesting discussion about our coop we have planned for next fall (we will study one country a month) and a discussion about trying to put together a child safety class for the kids. I came home to discover that Serona had wall mounted our monitor and it is wonderful.

We have a full day planned today of activities.

February 11, 2004

Calling all Minnesota Homeschoolers... This is a PSA for Minnesota homeschoolers that I am passing on from a mailing list - there is important legislation that can affect homeschoolers. Please read and take whatever action you feel is appropriate. For those not in Minnesota - it still pays to know what is going on in other states, because similar things can occur where you are.


February 10, 2004
> Calls needed to stop Homeschool regulation bill
> Dear Minnesota HSLDA members and friends:
> Minnesota is one of five or six states that offers some kind of tax
> break for families with children in home or private schools. A new
> bill in the Minnesota House would regulate every school that accepts
> a child from a family that claims any tax credit or deduction for
> educational expenses, including homeschools. This bill must be
> defeated.
> (1) Please call every member of the House Education Policy, listed
> below. Politely say, "Please vote against House Bill 1787. Private
> and homeschool families save Minnesota millions in taxes. Don't take
> away their freedom!" All numbers are in the 651 area code. If the
> Representative is unavailable, leave a message with a staffer or with
> the main switchboard.
> Chair: Barb Sykora (R)
> 296-4315
> Vice Chair: Mark Olson (R)
> 296-4237
> Lead-DFL: Lyndon Carlson (DFL)
> 296-4255
> Jeff Anderson (R)
> 296-4193
> Dick Borrell (R)
> 296-4336
> Mark Buesgens (R)
> 296-5185
> Randy Demmer (R)
> 296-9236
> Rob Eastlund (R)
> 296-5364
> Sondra Erickson (R)
> 296-6746
> Bud Heidgerken (R)
> 296-4317
> Jeff Johnson (R)
> 296-5511
> Karen Klinzing (R)
> 296-1147
> Philip Krinkie (R)
> 296-2907
> Doug Meslow (R)
> 296-5363
> Carla Nelson (R)
> 296-0573
> Scott Newman (R)
> 296-1534
> Stephanie Olsen (R)
> 296-4280
> Alice Seagren (R)
> 296-7803
> Marty Seifert (R)
> 296-5374
> Dean Urdahl (R)
> 296-4344
> Lynn Wardlow (R)
> 296-4128
> Kurt Zellers (R)
> 296-5502
> Connie Bernardy (DFL)
> 296-5510
> Len Biernat (DFL)
> 296-4219
> Jim Davnie (DFL)
> 296-0173
> Kent Eken (DFL)
> 296-9918
> Mindy Greiling (DFL)
> 296-5387
> Mike Jaros (DFL)
> 296-4246
> Ron Latz (DFL)
> 296-7026
> Carlos Mariani (DFL)
> 296-9714
> Gene Pelowski (DFL)
> 296-8637
> Nora Slawik (DFL)
> 296-7807
> Unlike most states, Minnesota currently provides a tax credit for low
> income families with children in private or homeschools, and a tax
> deduction for families who make more money. This is a real benefit
> for families, but it provides a tempting target for legislators who
> want to regulate private education. House Bill 1787 would force
> every school that accepts a child from a family that plans to take a
> tax credit or tax deduction to make several changes.
> (1) The school would have to comply with the state's high school
> graduation requirements, instead of the school's own standards.
> (2) The state would restrict the school's ability to expel students
> and would regulate the school's control over which courses the
> students can take.
> (3) Schools would be required to perform criminal background checks
> on school employees.
> This bill appears to be a straightforward attack on private school
> freedom. To the best of our knowledge, there are no specific problems
> in current law that support the proposed changes. Whether or not
> your family currently takes advantage of these tax breaks, this bill
> is a slap in the face to every Minnesota family that spends their own
> money to educate their own children. It must be defeated.
> Sincerely,
> Scott Somerville
> HSLDA Staff Attorney

February 10, 2004

Roomba Review... Some of you have been asking us about our Roomba so I decided to give a review here. Overall I would say I recommend it and that we love it. But I will say that it depends on the kind of person that you are, Roomba has a personality that is not for everyone.

On the surface the concept of a robot vacuum cleaner is awesome and I believe in reality it is awesome. The first time I spent the afternoon reading to my kids while my bathrooms, kitchen and living room were cleaned by Roomba I knew we had made the right decision. But in our house atleast you can't just put Roomba down and leave her to clean without any assistance from you. You do need to help her out occasionally by emptying her dustbin and cleaning out the brushes. Also you need to have a basically clean house to start with.

People who will love Roomba: anyone with pets - (Roomba is incredible on dog hair - like nothing else I have seen), people who have all hardwood floors (there is no reason to not have roomba if you only have hardwood), people who have mostly clutter free floors (few toys and little things strewn about), people who love new technology (serona still loves to just stare at her while she works and loves saying we have a robot), early adopters of technology who expect and adapt well to the inevitable bugs.

People who will hate Roomba: people who love straight lines on their carpet (she follows a REALLY crazy pattern), people who don't like to empty dustbins(everytime you use it), people who don't like to "tinker" with technology (the brushes need to be cleaned regularly), people with cluttered floors (it needs basically cleared off floors), people who want it to do everything.

I love Roomba and I don't mind that I have to clean her out every single room (sometimes 2-3 times for a large room) but you see I used to have dog hair and carpet fibers all over my home making it look dirty and now I do not. I used to have to get down on my hands and knees to pick up dog hair with my hands or a brush and do that throughout the house - now I just have to clean it off the brushes a few times a day and Roomba runs around the house picking it up.

I also can read to my kids, do homeschool, cook, blog, or surf the internet while she cleans the house. That simply can not be beat in my book. I just have to empty out her dustbins and clean her brushes a few times and change the battery a few times to have a clean house!

If you are expecting no work at all, you may want to wait for a different model - but if you want a vacuum that makes your life easier - buy Roomba. I think she does an outstanding job cleaning the carpet and floors (better than our old upright) and you can do something else at the same time. I would add that you should buy the rapid charger and the extra battery (while pricey they will multiple your happiness level with Roomba) we quickly discovered Roomba would not work for us without it - but once we had that - it worked wonders.

A last note if you have all hardwood floors in your home - go buy one right now - your floors will be barefoot clean all the time and Roomba requires very little maintenance on hardwood floors (our carpet fibers appear to be what causes the most maintenance) and if you struggle with pet hair - roomba is your answer.

Math Games... I love teaching math through games. We played some of my favorites tonight. The good old reliable Chutes and Ladders is a personal favorite. Tonight when we played we were able to practice counting to 100, number recognition through 100. Directions (north, south, east, west), math concept of vertical and horizontal, addition and subtraction. The game also allows you to talk about natural consequences of good and bad behavior. All this without any reading required makes it a great game. As we play I ask simple questions like "what number are you on", what is blank plus blank and "how many space to x" I also ask which direction we are moving in and if we have gone horizontal, vertical or both. Rhiannon really gets a kick out of it and gets practice application of skills we worked on. She does very well - though 6 and 9 are still confusing as are 31 and 13.

We also played war with dinosaur cards and talked about greater than, less than and equal too. To my amazement she got every one correct. Then we did some addition flash cards. I think that it is great to make math seem fun. Then they don't even realize that they are learning while we do it.

Vrooming along through V.... Today we continued with V. We read about and listened to Vivaldi. We looked at works from Van Gogh and read about his life. I couldn't believe he only sold one painting when he was alive! We read about vultures and then drew them in our nature notebooks. We read several storybooks with V themes or names. We talked about vertical lines and the difference between vertical and horizontal. The kids played Darth Vader from Star Wars and Violet Beauregard from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory during their imaginary playtime.

We survived another day without any TV - and I was right that it was me that found it tougher than the kids! They took time to look through issues of National Geographic and did some puzzles and file folder games. For quiet time Rhiannon read through all the Bob books in her set while Ciaran and Sirah slept and I got some cleaning done. We made homemade valentines for the kids in their homeschool group for our upcoming party. We learned and presented "Roses are Red, Violets are Blue" and read from A Child's Book of Garden Verses.

We practiced rhyming words and the kids did some free drawing time. We are now going to play Chutes and Ladders and review vertical and horizontal and simple math skills while we play. Then we will make pizza tonight for dinner. I think we will just do some reading again tonight - there are a few fun V storybooks we have left to do.

Financial Side of Homeschooling... This morning I was reading an interesting article on the financial costs of homeschooling. The article was pretty fair to show both sides - with this quote:

"It can be as inexpensive as a library card or cost thousands of dollars," homeschooling parent Chelly Bernard said. "The difference is the less you spend the more you're going to work."

I think this parent had an excellent point. You can do homeschooling and it can cost you a lot of money and you can utilize your library and it will be a lot cheaper. It all depends on what you and your family want and need. I do believe that you can often find cheaper alternatives - but often it is more work for us as the parent - and later for the kids themselves.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to keep track of my resources in one location. I have found the "answer box" aka the internet to be an invaluable resource and it has a wealth of free and good information if you know where to look. I think it is an exciting time to be homeschooling as there are so many resources at our fingertips and the costs are coming down if you are willing to put in a little more work and time.

Geek with a Capital G... That is me. Yes you read it right - I am officially calling myself a geek. Last night for our date Serona and I went monitor shopping as we thought our monitor was going out (now we think it might also be the video card in our computer) and of course he convinced me to look at LCD flat panel monitors. They are nice. So now as I type this I am in our kitchen using our flat panel screen (which will soon be wall mounted above our island) typing on a wireless keyboard which has a built in wireless mouse. Our house has a wireless network to link our two family computers (one in the kitchen and one in the office), Serona's laptop, and our file storage box (in the closet of the office).

We have a robot that vacuums our floors and I do almost all my shopping online (including groceries). We have a home library and a schoolroom. I am amazed at how much God has blessed our family - it is truly amazing to me. Especially when I look back on where we have been and the road we have taken to get here. We are truly thankful for all that we have. I still can't believe that I am the "geekiest" person I know though (and that says a lot since Serona is a computer programmer).


February 9, 2004

Starting off "V" week... Today we began our letter of the week routine again. I must say I am happy to be back. Being that Rhiannon is very into Volcanoes as of late and it is Valentine's Day I thought we would start off with V . We went to the library last week and cleared out books on V subjects.

We began the morning with a review of the letter and it's sound. Using the whiteboard easel we write out words that began with V and then the kids drew pictures. Some f our intial list the kids thought up were: Vivaldi, vet, volcano, darth vader, valentine, and violin. Their pictures were fun. We also added vulture, vampire bat, and vice-president. We reviewed who the vice president and president were. We talked briefly about the role of the VP.

Then we did some computer time reviewing the picture dictionary for the letter V. An excellent resource. We printed out coloring pictures and covered half of the entries listed here. Then it was off for reading time. We read books on volcanoes and veterinarians and the Velveteen Rabbit.

The kids went outside with Serona who stayed home today and they went sledding on the hill in our yard and ran around to expend energy. They came inside and we did a volcano experiment. A real basic one that can be found here. Then lunch and naps.

After lunch Rhiannon spent her reading time reading several Bob books to Sirah and Ciaran and then putting letters together on the fridge and trying to sound them out. They had an afternoon of free play time and then a few more books this evening. Tomorrow we will pick up with math and music. They of course listened to Vivaldi and today instead of Monet I let them look at Van Gogh in true V theme.

Hope you are having a great day,
Exciting Opportunity for Homeschooling Parents... The Thomas Day Education Project is offering an interesting opportunity to homeschooling parents and other educators. From the website, they are offering:

"Five-day, expense-paid workshops open to K-12 teachers nationwide. Expand your knowledge of African - American history by touring exciting landmarks!"

This opportunity is offered to homeschooling parents as well, and all are encouraged to apply. If this interests you - read more here. There is an application process and a review board - but it may be worth your while.

Sirah will not be ready for me to be away from her and would be a handful at a conference like that so I will not be applying - but I hope some of you do.


PS: I do not advocate or know the positions of the Thomas Day Education Project - I simply offer this to you for your personal review.

February 8, 2004

Banning TV... Well as many of my readers know we do not have commercial or network or cable television in our home (for a long list of reasons) and I have not watched it for about 12 years now. We do however have a TV set and allow the children to watch pre-selected videos from time to time. Prodromal labor and the early days of a newborn and then a move found us watching far more than I felt comfortable with (about an hour a day) and I've been trying to cut back down again.

Yesterday we were listening to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the car and I became reinspired to take more drastic means. No I am not going to throw the set out of the house (I think Serona would veto that) and I'm not going to burn it in our backyard (the neighbors would definitely think we were crazy new neighbors then) - but I did tell the children that starting tomorrow we are going to have no TV at all for a week. Anticipating a fight I was surprised at what I heard. Rhainnon simply said "OK but can we watch one last movie today" - then she asked "Are we never watching movies again ever?" and seemed relieved when I said we would reconsider it after a week. Ciaran said "Tv is bad for our brain" and happily sat down to watch his last movie for the week (and perhaps longer). I anticipated a fight and planned to let them watch some today since I was planning to take it away for the week. However I was pleasantly surprised by their reaction.

In reality I think I will miss it more than them. No I don't watch it much - but I do use the TV as a tool to keep them still or quiet sometimes. As much as I said I would never let the TV parent my kids - that is exactly what I have done. I find myself putting on a movie to keep them quiet so I can get Sirah to sleep, pay bills, clean the house or cook dinner. It is for me not them that I put on the TV. Yes I choose the program, yes there are no commercials, yes we control the content. But I am still putting them in front of the box to be quiet.

Yes I read to my kids (a ton), yes we homeschool, yes we play games and watch so little of it already. But still I feel like I am doing them a disservice. You may ask what pushed me over the edge? A few different things happened at the same time that led me here (much like when I stopped watching violent movies - which by the way is nearly everything) . First, about a week ago Rhiannon said "no" when I put on a movie - she proceeded to tell me that TV was not good for her brain and would I read to her? No, I am not kidding - she was serious - she really wanted me to read and did not want to watch the show I had just put in. I was taken aback and as she was right I obliged - even though I wanted her to watch a movie so I could get some things done. Second I noticed an increase in Ciaran asking to watch movies whenever he did not have a planned activity. I also noticed Rhiannon mopping about more saying she was bored and could not think of anything to do. Then I heard this poem from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory:

Mike Teavee..."

(from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

"The most important thing we've learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set–
Or better still, just don't install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we've been,
We've watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone's place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they're hypnotised by it,
Until they're absolutely drunk
With all the shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don't climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink–
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say,
'But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!'
We'll answer this by asking you,
'What used the darling ones to do?
'How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?'
Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:
THEY...USED...TO...READ! They'd READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic takes
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching 'round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it's Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. TiggyWinkle and–
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How The Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There's Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They'll now begin to feel the need
Of having something good to read.
And once they start oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hears. They'll grow so keen
They'll wonder what they'd ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.
P.S. Regarding Mike Teavee,
We very much regret that we
Shall simply have to wait and see
If we can get him back his height.
But if we can't –it serves him right."

Then I stopped to think about why my children have been watching more TV recently. The reality is because I have been overusing the TV for my conveinance. I was starting to see some of the downsides of it, albeit in very little ways. So I've decided to just shut the thing off for a week and see how it goes and then reevaluate next week.

The astonishing reality that I needed to face is that this will be harder on me than on them. I needed to face the fact that I am doing exactly what I said I never would. The time has come for me to face up and correct my ways before I let TV watching (even just videos) become an acceptable norm for our family.


Take the survey... Hershey Park is taking a survery while considering having a homeschool day. To take part click here.

Homeschoolers and College... Here is a piece on how one Mississippi college considers homeschool applicants. From the article:

"Home-schooled students face few challenges upon admittance into Ole Miss.

In fact, despite what many may think, admission for students who went through home-schooling programs is not very different from that of regular high school graduates.

Beckett Howorth, director of admissions, said that while the admissions process for students who were home schooled is identical to that of high school graduates, the documentation needed is different.

"Home schoolers often work with third party groups and provide us with portfolios of their high school experiences."

Read more here.

Positive Press... Here is a nice article on a homeschooling family that appears to be following a classical approach. It is nice to see homeschooling portrayed in a positive light for a change. This was a nice quote to finish the article:

"Home schooling is a way of life," Brad Thompson said. "It's gratifying because we are taking complete self ownership in the intellectual and moral education of our children."

Read the whole piece here.


Tip of the hat to HomeschoolBuzz for the link.