December 30, 2005


Take a look at the MSNBC 2005 Pictoral Year in Review. They have two versions. 1. Readers' Choice. 2. Editors' Choice.

Launch the Readers' Choice first. Turn off the "auto play" and just look at all of the pictures.

Now Launch the Editors' Choice. Turn off the "auto play" so that no commentary comes through. Look at the pictures.

You begin to understand why we do not have a news media, we have a bad-news media.

While the Readers' Choice pix do not shy away from the heartbreak and trajedy of the real world, they also carry with them hope and patriotism and optimism. The Editors' choice pictures are much more hopeless, graphic, distubing, and sorrowful.

And folks wonder why the MSM is so out of touch with the rest of us....

Here is the link.

The Year in Pictures 2005 - Year in Review -


6 inches and still falling! Beautiful packing snow. Kids are working on a snowman right now. Neighbor snow blowed our driveway! Praise God for good neighbors! Sledding and snow sculptures next.

Oh and the Homeschool Blog Award Winners are up. Thanks to all who voted for us. We didn't win but it was great to find other new blogs!


December 29, 2005

Best of Blog Nominations

Time for the Best of Blogs Awards - there is a Homeschooling and Education category. Check out the variety of categories, find some new blogs and nominate your favorites at Best of Blogs.


Great Christmas

We have been enjoying a nice extended family time together. Christmas was wonderful and we are just taking the time together as a family to play games and just be. Hope you are enjoying your own holidays and family time.


December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas to All

All of us here at SCHOOL@HOME wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas! We hope your day will be filled with peace, joy and love. As you enjoy all the brightly wrapped packages and comforting food, take a moment to reflect on the birth of our Lord and Saviour.

The Birth of Jesus: Luke 2

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
The Shepherds and the Angels

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 "Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

With much love,
Tenn, Serona, Rhiannon, Ciaran and Sirah

December 24, 2005

The Stockings Were Hung

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

On the twelfth day of Christmas God gave our family twelve hours of playtime,

Eleven rooms in the house to clean,
Ten last minute errands,
Nine Christmas carols sung aloud,
Eight packages from family,
Seven sledding hills,
Six degree weather,
Five hearts to worship him,
Four hours of knitting,
Three hours of wrapping and shipping,
Two high jumping dolphins,
And a foot of snow with 3 hours of shoveling!

December 23, 2005

An intentional life

Have you ever stopped to think about the way you live your life? The choices you make each day, both conscious and unconscious? Have you considered how intentional each choice you make is? Most of us do not. The end of each year always leads me to think through my own personal intentionality and that of my family.

Serona and I have committed to living an intentional life. One filled with purpose and directions, researched and thought out decisions and a commitment to follow through. We have committed to taking time to consider what we do both intentionally and out of habit. We take time to examine those habits and try to improve them.

To be sure we are not perfect and we backslide often. Still our goal is to always be moving forward and always trying to become more intentional about the choices we make as individuals, as a couple and for our family.

A few months back I wrote a more detailed post about our personal family choices and commitments to moving from being a "good" family to a "great" family. Taking a page out of Jim Collins "Good to Great" book we highlight our family's Hedgehog concept or mission statement.

Take a few moments to read through my previous post Are you Good or Are You Great? and think about your own family and the choices you are makine on a day to day basis.

Becoming good can be far easier than moving into the next stage of being great. Often we become complacent and content with our progress and stop striving to move forward and to improve. I am not discouraging contentment as we are called to be content in all things. Rather I am standing against complacency and an unwillingness to examine our daily choices. I encourage you to examine your own life, as we examine ours and to consider living more intentionally this upcoming year.

Merry Christmas,

Camping Under the Christmas Tree

A friend of ours lets her kids camp under the Christmas tree every weekend during Christmas season. Due to the ages of our kids this year we decided just to let them have one special occasion like this. Tonight the sleeping bags are all under or next to the tree, we read our bedtime stories by the light of the tree and now, even still they are all up there whispering and talking by the light of the tree. I think we started a new family tradition! Dear friend, thanks for the idea, you know who you are!

Merry Christmas,

December 22, 2005

Our Family Christmas Carol

Tonight our family was supposed to go Christmas caroling on horseback. It was not meant to be. First we did not have good directions in time, second there was a car accident that delayed us, finally we got very lost and after weaving through countless neighborhood streets we decided we needed to pay attention to reality and stop trying.

So we changed the night into looking at Christmas lights and singing Christmas carols. Each person choose a song and we sang it. At one point we got the bright idea of making up our own Christmas carol one line at a time, each person adding a line. With small children you never know what will come out - sort of like a mad lib. For your enjoyment, sung to the tune of Deck the Halls:

I am wearing a very long scarf
It makes me want to barf,
(insert long extended farting/raspberry sound) - Note this was unintentionally but definately biologically produced by one of our children in real time.
I have a tree in my head,
sing E-I-E-I-O

Well there you have it, our family Christmas carol. Can you tell we are proud? It made for some great laughter in the car!

Merry Christmas,

December 20, 2005

Favorite Lessons and Moments of 2005

January: We learned about and did some ceiling Art, boosted our Self-Esteem, did a Scavenger Hunt at the Mall, spent some time with owls, interacted with the History of China and theirGeography and Food, and put together our Little House on the Prairie Lesson Plan.

We studied and visited the Police Station, learned about the Animals, history, culture, geography and food of Thailand, attended a science fair, studied the Inuit and Arctic, had a teachable moment in citizenship, took a Little House on the Prairie Field Trip to DeSmet.

We studied the animals, history, and geography and food of Japan, spent some time with our Easter lessons, took a field trip to the local library, played with magnets and developed our Countries of the World Lesson Plan.

We had fun with skip counting, had a great frog birthday party, did activities for Earth Day, enjoyed a visit with the grandparents, attended MACHE homeschool conference, went on a great lampworking field trip, spent time with frogs, created our family fun jar and had our first stitches experience.

We had a tea party, visited the state capitol, spent plenty of time in the Star Wars Universe, with lightsabers, kids printables and games and Star Wars web links and humor. Serona and the kids spent a weekend on the SS Fathers Folly while I spent a weekend away. The kids attended a mini horse camp, did some Cinco De Mayo activities and finished off our First year of homeschooling.

Summer 2005
We took swim lessons, spent lots of time at the beach, attended VBS, raised tadpoles that all sadly died, followed the natural progression of the rose garden, made atlatyls and visited the petroglyphs, found a baby gosling, attended a great performance of the The Hobbit, went camping, learned to appreciate our little naturalist. Ciaran learned to ride a bike, Rhia had a beach party for her 6th birthday, we all attended the Scottish Fair and Games, and watched baby grow up. Here is a list of some of our common and favorite Summer Pastimes.

We joined a new coop where the kids will be in a Five in a Row class. worked on an Illustrated Bible, enjoyed mud, saved TinkerBell, learned about nomads, played with letters and numbers, visited historical sites, worked on the farm, fought back against advertising. We played with geography,visited Mill City Museum, homeschool picnic, and the zoo.

We went leaf peeping, made a homemade calendar, studied floods, built a model of Noah's Ark in our garage, stumbled into accidental unit studies, studied pyramids, Baked an Apple Pie and Saw the World, drove 60 hours roundtrip in our car to visit the grandparents in Maine. While in Maine we visited an elk farm, Augusta Children's Museum, climbed a mountain, went horseback riding, visited a dairy farm, and Niagara Falls.

We spent a day at the State Capitol and the James J Hill House, recap of our studies in early November, made stone soup, read and studied The Chronicles of Narnia, did some Thanksgiving activities, memorized scripture and played in the snow.

This month has been about playing in the snow, playing monkey ball with dad, watching Christmas movies, making Christmas cookies, wrapping and shipping presents, and just enjoying each other. Rhia wrote a fairy tale, Sirah ate cocoa under the Christmas tree, and Ciaran invented a Toilet Paper Game. They built clay houses, did science experiments, played 20 questions, participated in the end of the year showcase for their homeschool coop. We did activities about gingerbread, learned about Candy Canes, and participated in a cookie exchange. We had a private showing with our hs group of Chronicles of Narnia and did some follow-up activities. Our blog was nominated for in several categories of the Homeschool Blog Awards, Serona and I actually got out on a date, we had a three day snow to guarantee a White Christmas. We joined a Farm Pen Pal program, learned how to snow paint, saw a solar halo, celebrated advent, visited the science museum, went sledding and watched our favorite Christmas movies. We are keeping track of our 12 Days of Christmas.

Serona has had many great posts this year over at Cyber::Ecology. Some of the best include: Vicrtimized by My Food, Debunking Katrina Myths, Election Allegations, Why The War on Terrorism Matters, Weird Goldfish, Privelage, Responsibility and MSM, Globalization and You, Fundamentalist Copyright Zealots, and Rant, Rage, Blister and Fume
Remember by scrolling down you can read more about our year including our reading lists from each month (on the right side bar) and more field trips and lessons. We have been so blessed this year. Hope your year has been great.

We wish you a Merry Christmas,
Tenn, Serona and the kids

Membership as a Gift Idea

Want a great gift idea for a family? Instead of purchasing each individual a gift why not consider purchasing a family membership to a nearby museum or arboretum? Our family has received these as gifts, in the past and this year as well. It truly is a gift that keeps giving for the whole year. Our family has been fortunate to receive or purchase memberships to the zoo, historical society, science museum, children's museum and arboretum (our art museum is always free).

My children love these locations and we can easily spend several days a month at these locations. When my children receive this as a gift I always remind them who makes it possible for us to be at this fun place each time we go. Since we have a membership they can have more control over what we see and how often we attend. They have as an option when asked what would you like to do to respond with go to the zoo, science museum, children's museum or the arborteum without any worry that mom will say "I'm sorry it is too expensive or we can't right now." These locations make great family days, kid dates and even field trips.

So if you are stumped or want a non-traditional idea consider giving a membership to a family you love.

Merry Christmas,

Advent Lessons

This year during the Christmas season we are reading Bartholomew's Passage, a Family Story for Advent by Arnold Ytreeide. In this book you read one chapter a night starting the fourth sunday before Christmas until the last chapter Christmas morning. Many families also light advent candles as they read them. The story is engagin, interesting and makes the kids want to keep reading. It is a bit intense for young children and I have edited as I have read.

Some other ideas for advent can be found at
Just 4 kids
First School
Preparing a Place

Merry Christmas,

December 19, 2005

Solar Halo

Today we received a real treat, we witnessed a solar halo. The first one any of us have ever seen. For those unfamiliar - a solar halo is like a rainbow that circles the sun. It is beautiful and frequently happens when very cold (like today) as the cold affects the crystals in the air and refracts the light to form the halo (oversimplified explanation).

For more information and some cool pictures check out:

Atmospheric Optics
AStronomy Picture of the Day
UIC Astronomy Dept

Marry Christmas,

December 18, 2005

Field Guides as Children's Gifts

This may seem surprising too you but my 2 year old's favorite book is the Birds of Minnesota Field Guide.

While on first blush this seems odd - truly it isn't. Filled with beautiful big pictures of colorful birds and at your hand information on each bird it is perfect for a young child who loves to look at colorful pictures and have immediate information about what they are looking at.

Field guides make great gifts. Especially when they are specific to the area you live in. We have MN field guides for birds, reptiles and amphibians, wildflowers and trees. These are some of my kids favorite books and we look at them often. They provide excellent information, pretty pictures and science curriculum.

Sirah's favorite birds are the woodpecker and barn owl. She can name several birds just because we look at the pictures she points and I say the name. Ciaran knows all the species of frogs and toads and many by their calls. Rhiannon took pictures and matched them to wildflowers this summer.

Field guides are relatively inexpensive and a gift that keeps giving for a long time. A not commonly thought of gift for a child but one they can come back to time and time again. I especially recommend them for the 2-7 year old age group before they develop preconceived notions of what is and is not a good book. That is the same reason I read lots of non-fiction books to our kids and take them to the arboretum often.

Kids have a deep quest for information about their world and a short patience level for waiting for the answers. Books and places that provide immediate information are great for young children. If you make it fun when they are young they will love it for life. Beat the preconceptions and create your own.

This year instead of a plastic or talking toy why not try a field guide or membership to a local museum or arboretum for the families you love.


December 16, 2005

Still Snowing

We have had snow for 67 hours now. We have about a foot of snow and have shoveled every day - headed out there again. As the temps are heading down to single digits pretty sure our Christmas will be white.

I always love the way this much snow (or more) looks. The evergreens are beautiful covered in snow, the front yards are untouched though our backyard is trounched through with two dogs and three kids and a sledding hill! With the Christmas lights it is just so festive. Makes the cold worth it as we head into the negatives by the weekend.

Homemade Calendar

An activity that is fun and easy this time of year is to make homemade calendars. Your kids can make their own (with your assistance) or you could make one for your child as a gift. We recently did this homemade picture calendar activity and you can find some more specific directions of how we did it.

The basics, find pictures, either your own digital photos or use Google Images to locate and save pictures to a folder on your computer. Choose one or more for each month and print it out using free software (many digital camera software has a calendar option).

Then put it together however you wish with a binding (done at a Kinko's or copy shop) or just place each page in a sheet protector in a three ring binder. We have done these and they are fun and easy. We have made a frog calendar, a horse calendar, a family photo calendar and a seasonal one (a picture of something significant from each month).

Have fun and Merry Christmas,

December 15, 2005

Free Fun Family Christmas Gift

At this time of year - free anything sounds nice doesn't it? Here is an easy gift idea for your family or a family with young children you love. We call it our Family Fun Jar. We pull it out when kids get bored or our creative juices are no longer flowing to jumpstart our day.

I created a list of ideas for us to do, I let the kids put some of their own ideas in there. The only rule is we have (but you need not have) is we must do whatever it says when we pull it (unless weather or transportation prevents it). This rule is important in our family to prevent fights and keep the spirit of the jar.

You can simply print out my list on different colored paper and cut in strips. Then place the strips in some sort of container (a vase, a ball jar, a decorated shoebox, a pretty basket, etc) and offer it as a gift. This is an especially kind gift to a mother of preschoolers who need lots of creative things to do. Of course you will want to edit and change the list as it best suits your family but for a springboard, check out my Family Fun Jar.

December 14, 2005

Holiday Teachable Moments

November thru January are tough months for parents. Avoiding stores becomes a parents favorite hobby to avoid the incessant "I want, I need, Can I have this for Christmas?" Still we find ourselves in stores over and over again at this time.

I thought a reminder of our family's I Spy An Advertisement Game might be appropriate. Turning difficult moments into fun teachable moments. Let's take back our kids and win over advertisements continual pull at them.

Of course I still support and believe in the avoidance of temptation strategy as a first defense - but this offers a nice backup.

Merry Christmas,

Yet Another Reason to Homeschool

Serona has another reason over at Cyber::Ecology.

Snow Painting

Add this to the list of snow angels, snowballs, building snow sculptures, catching snowflakes on velvet and sledding to our snowy day fun activities.

Here is a simple and quick activity. Check out a recipe for Snow Painting.


Farm Pen Pal Program

Our family will begin exchanging letters with a MN farming family through a pen pal program. We are excited, we just found out our family is a farm which grows soybeans and corn and is also a dairy farm. The mother also spins wool! They have three kids, some similar ages to our own. We are excited to start exchanging letters and learning about their lives and sharing about our own.

If this sounds interesting to you try contacting your local farm bureau and see if they have any programs already set up. It is a neat opportunity for both families to learn about the land and daily life of people in different parts of your own state.


Walk the Bible

Check out a public television broadcast coming this January. Maybe we will even pull out the bunny ears!

Walking the Bible
tpt2 Wednesdays, January 4, 11 & 18 at 7PM
tpt2 Sundays, January 8, 15 & 22 at 6PM
Part adventure, part archaeological detective work and part spiritual exploration, this three-part series follows storyteller Bruce Feiler on his inspiring 10,000-mile odyssey as he searches for traces of the great biblical heroes. Feiler travels by foot, four-wheel, camel and boat to re-create the journey he recounts in his best-seller, Walking the Bible. The series wanders through 10 countries on three continents, including volatile areas of the Middle East. Accompanying Feiler is Avner Green, one of the world's leading biblical archaeologists.

Also showing in December
Minnesota: A History of the Land
tpt2 Wednesdays, December 28 and January 4 at 8PM
This four-part documentary series vividly brings to life the epic story of Minnesota landscapes and people. From the retreat of the last ice sheets to the growth of today's suburbs - the series seeks to entertain as it enriches our understanding of Minnesota's past, present and future. Produced by the University of Minnesota's College of Natural Resources and Twin Cities Public Television, the series features visually stunning images from across the state and an original soundtrack by award-winning composer, Peter Ostroushko.

White Christmas

Well we will have a white Christmas here in Minnesota. About 3-4 inches on the ground now and it will keep snowing until tommorrow morning. Of course the temperature here pretty much promises we will keep the snow until Christmas! YAY!

Let's see sleigh riding, shoveling, snow angels, building snow structures and hot chocolate I think that is our day today!


December 13, 2005

Chronicles of Narnia Review

We just returned from seeing Narnia today. I organized a private showing for our group at a local theater. It was fun we had around 60 people from our homechool group, quite a few fathers were able to take off work and join us as well. It was nice to just have our group in the theater. On to the movie.

This is the main reason I really loved this film. During the car ride home I discussed the film with the kids. Rhiannon said Mom I realized something about Jesus and Aslan. They both came back to life from the dead. They both died for someone elses mistakes. They both choose to die to save the other person. Then we had a great conversation about the basics of Christianity. Both my 4 and 6 year old really saw this message in a real way through this film. Of course both of them know the story of Christ's death quite well but still they found it there themselves, atleast Rhia did and Ciaran understood and could articulate the point back to us. We talked about the stone table cracking and the veil breaking. We talked about Christ and us and how it was a similar story. It was a very meaningful conversation.

If the movie encourages that kind of discussion then it is a great movie in my book. Still on its own merits I thought it was a great movie. Disney really managed to create Narnia. Just as I felt a part of Middle Earth in LOTR I felt a part of Narnia. The charachters were believable, Aslan was majestic and the movie captured the spirit of the book and stayed pretty close to the book overall. The boy who played Edmund was fantastic and demonstrated the conflict very well, Tumnus and Lucy were also favorites of mine.

Having read these books many times I was pretty set to be disappointed or left unhappy - I was not, I really was pleased. The movie is good even for those who have not read the books as a child adventure film. The pacing is good, the storyline easy to follow and the adventure is there but never goes over the top.

Personally I feel it is an intense film and would not feel comfortable recommending it to kids under say the 8-10 range unless their parents saw it first. Serona disagrees and thinks it is fine for younger children. I say make a case by case judgement on your own child. The scene where Aslan is taunted and killed is very intense. The creatures are mythical and dark in nature and personally I think nightmare material for sensitive children. Still we did take our very young children and they were fine. They loved the movie.

Our decision was based on how much a part Narnia is to our family. We have read the series aloud several times to the kids, they have seen The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe several times as a play, Serona has portrayed Aslan and they have watched the White Witch "kill" Aslan (their Dad)- therefore we felt they were prepared enough for this and they were but I would hesitate to recommend it for real young children. Some of the creatures are a small step from LOTR IMHO.

This is a keeper, a good film. One we will own and one we hope they will make sequels too. It treats children with respect but does not cross over to make them superior to the adults around them. It is an excellent child fantasy and adventure film. Our whole family enjoyed it.


Narnia Follow-up

After the movie the kids and I did several activities. We printed out paper dolls they colored, a wardrobe with lampost and map of Narnia. They printed out family trees with the shield and sons and daughters of their family. Rhiannon and I had a Q and A about the movie, based off some of the materials found in the Narnia Resources - here it is:

How did you feel about each person as you first met them?
I thought Susan was thinking she was always right
Peter was a little bossy
Edmund was a lying boy
Lucy was a pretty truthful girl.
I thought the professor was pretty old.

How would you feel if you walked into a magical wardrobe?

Pretty shocked. After I saw what it was like I might try it. At first I would have wanted to be like Susan and go home.

How would you feel if it was always winter? Pretty stressed.
Why? Because I would never have my birthday. Only daddy would have a birthday.

What difference would it make to you if there was no Christmas?
I would be so angry I don't know how to express it. I would rather move away.

Why do you think the professor belived Lucy's story?

Because he had been in Narnia before.

Why do you think Edmund lies about being to Narnia?

Because he is liar and he wants to protect the witch's secret.

Do you think Mr Tumnus is good or bad?
Pretty much good, but some bad because he tried to betray Lucy but then he helped her get away.

What would you tell Mr. Tumnus to do?

I would tell him to do what he thought was right? If you take Lucy to the White Witch you will not hurt but she will - if you dont you will get hurt but she won't.
If Lucy is your friend would you be nice to her

If you were Edmund would you take the candy?

If I had been there before I'd heard the queen and known it was enchanted. No because I know that I don't know this adult and I don't know if this is poisonous candy or something. They might be trying to harm me or something.

Why isn't Edmund punished?

Because Aslan forgave him and stood in Edmund's place

Does that seem fair to you?
Yes and no. It wasnt fair because he did it and should be punished and the good thing was Aslan died for him so Edmund did not have to die and could be one of the kings.

Why was Edmund so tempted by Tuirkish Delight?

Because it was his favorite thing.

What type of things are kids are tempted by today?

Above all - Satan gives them things that tempt them.

Like what?
Like he tells them to steal a cookie.

What temptation do you struggle the most with?


What's the difference between temptation and actually doing something wrong?
If you are tempted you just really really want to do something. When you are actually doing it - its different because you can't turn back.

What can you do when you are struggling with temptation?
Call on God. Ask Him to help me.

What is the most courageous part in the story?

When Peter fought the White Witch

What was your favorite part?

When Aslan came back to life.

Candy Cane Lesson Plan

For Ciaran's last homeschool coop class the kids read the book J is for Jesus which talks about how the candy cane actually represents Christ. The class they did was fun. They got to eat candy canes, make a gift for a friend - candy cane tied to a pretty ornament strung with ribbon with a poem about the meaning of the candy cane and they made edible mangers from graham crackers, marshmallows and other goodies. Later in the day they had a scavenger hunt throughout the church looking for candy canes.

We continue that lesson at home with some fun ideas, including some for older kids, all about candy canes. If you are looking for a fun an interesting way to pass some time and learn about a holiday tradition this may be a good idea. I have chosen to include the religious content, still there is plenty of information for those not interested in including the Christian aspects of the Candy Cane.

Take a tour of a Candy Cane factory, with pictures and informative descriptions, at Spangler.

Read about the history and symbolism of the candy cane at The History of the Candy Cane.

Try some candy cane recipes (scroll down) at Homeschooled-Kids. They also have some nice poems and writings for the younger crowd.

Read The "J" Is For Jesus by Alice Joyce Davidson (for younger kids), J Is for Jesus : The Sweetest Story Ever Told by Crystal Bowman and The Candymaker's Gift : The Legend of the Candy Cane by David Haidel (my personal favorite).

Homemade candy cane recipe available at The Teachers Corner.

Play candy cane jumping to get them active found at Funding Factory


December 12, 2005

Glue, Gingerbread and Narnia lessons

Confession of a homeschooling mom - I hate glue! I hate all projects related to glue. Therefore arts and crafts is not my favorite time. I have small children, I have artistic children, we have lots of glue. Lots of glue yields unhappy moments for mommy. Wiping glue off kitchen table for 13th time. Statements like "No you may not glue the board game to the stool" and "Keep the glue away from the dog" and "Your sisters hair does not look better with more glue added" have actually come out of my mouth. Finding little pieces of paper glued places they should not be and that perpetual sticky feeling on my hands no matter how often I watch them for there is more glue waiting to be cleaned up. I'm a great homeschooling mom, right?

Well I do let them get the glue out. I try in vain to regulate it which turns into supervision which ultimately leads way to the two year old gluing her own pieces to the project because as she says "I do it myself". Remember the days when you had one two year old and you never even thought of buying a stick of glue or pair of scissors but now you simply try to have more rules about when the two year old can touch them?
Ah but she will perhaps be more artistic or atleast better skilled at removing glue from her own hair and clothing.

Why all the discussion of glue? Because tonight we made a gingerbread house. No not the real kind - the thought of tears over crumbled and broken gingerbread was too much to bear, even glue was more appealing. Besides grandma sent a foam gingerbread house kit in the mail today and it was about 25 seconds before it was opened and being assembled on my couch. I gave in and we moved to a semisafe location of the kitchen table. We put placemats down but honestly why bother when it is inevitable they will find the one spot uncovered on the table and that is where they will glue and stick things to!

The house came out nicely actually. The kids had a blast and my glue disasters were held to a minimum. Because of the raging success tommorrow holds a foam nativity scene in our future as well. Somewhere between seeing the Chronicles of Narnia (yay!) and watching the Polar Express (they got that DVD today too - thanks grandpa and grandma).

I think I should just give up on school for the month of December. The entire month of December is tough for anyones concentration. We have packages to mail, presents to make, cards to write, and kids who are very excited. We still have field trips, AWANA, and other activities. The snow makes the kids just want to be outside in the cold so they can come inside for more hot chocolate. Of course I will keep trying to find those teachable moments and throw things in now and then when they are unsuspecting. Besides tommorrow gives me a nice segway into many Narnia lessons.

Maybe we will do some activities from this Gingerbread Man Lesson Plan, Gingerbread Activites my favorite print out this great masks and act out the gingerbread man.

I think the notebooks and workbooks are away for the duration of the month and we will just have fun and play around with our lessons. That's the way they like it best and truthfully they tend to remember more anyway.


Homeschool Blog Awards

It's official. Voting for the Homeschool Blog Awards has begun. There are many great blogs to visit. Plan to lose a few evenings reading, being inspired and learning from some of the best homeschool bloggers around.

Thank you faithful readers for nominating us in several of the categories as well. If you like what you read here you can vote for us as best blog in any or all of the following categories: Best Homeschool Family Blog, Best Homeschool Blog Template Design, Best Homeschool Curriculum/Business Blog, and Best Homeschooling Mom Blog! Serona's blog Cyber Ecology is also nominated in the Best Current Events Homeschool Blog

Rules - you can only vote once, you can only vote for one blog in each category (though you can vote for the same blog in different categories) and you need to give a valid email or url. Voting is open now and ends December 26, 2005.

Cast Your Vote Here for the Homeschool Blog Awards


Homeschool Coop Showcase

Over the years we have been members of several homeschool support groups and coops. The one we are a part of this year is far and above our best group. It is like finally coming home to an extended family with similar goals and values and a LOT of kids.

We have approximately 70 families and too many kids to count. It seems that many of the families have 3 or 4 kids so you can do the math. At first I was intimidated by this number but we have developed some closer friendships and still enjoy the entire group.

I jumped right in, having joined just last May - I volunteered to help coordinate and establish a field trip committee for this group. Along with 5 other women we have just planned around 15 field trips a month for the months of Jan-May. I am excited for this. More details to come as we attend the trips.

The most exciting part for our family has been joining the Coop portion of this group (which is both a support group and a cooperative). The group is very well organized and established even though the coop part is only in its third year. I want to share a bit about the cooperative. For those of you interested in starting one this format is an excellent one for a larger group.

The group is divided into four main age groups. Birth-2 in the nursery, 3-4 year olds in a class, 5-1st grade in another class, 2-4th grade in one group, 5-8th grade in another group. The older two groups divide up into smaller classes and choose from different elective classes. We have a three hour day, with three sessions. Each parent teaches or assists in two hours and has one hour off to visit with and support other moms. Some dads also teach or assist in the coop in a variety of ways.

We recently ended our first semester with this group. We had one child in each of the first three age groups and none in the older two. Our kids classes were set in format. First hour they had a literature based book loosely following a Five in a Row format. With age appropriate lessons and activities. Second hour they had music, arts and crafts and a snack. Third hour they had a PE type class. My kids really enjoyed their classes and started to develop relationships through them.

Rhiannon's highlights from her class as she dictates to me - Reading about Robert Frost and the Snowy Woods, playing at gym class, snack time, making new friends, making a sculpture of London, singing Sunbeam, making my Thanksgiving centerpiece, and reading Cranberry Thanksgiving. I had fun at everything.

Ciaran's highlights from his class as he recalls them - My favorite book was about Jesus and the Candy Canes, my favorite craft was making blueberry buckets, making a manger with graham crackers and marshmallows, and marching around Jericho to make the walls come down.

To highlight some of the other classes offered at the end of the semester the coop offers a showcase where each class stands up and demonstrates or discusses some of the things they learned. This is very fun as we see all the coop offered and accomplished in a few short months. Rhiannon especially enjoyed seeing all the classes offered and can not wait to be able to choose her own electives and try out some of the different classes.

This past semester the coop offered a wise variety of classes including drama, knitting, purse making, science experiments, chemistry, math games, fleece projects, literature class on Betsy Tacy, Backyard Ballistics (building different kinds of projectile items), and Contenders for the Faith (a boys practical life skill and spiritual discipline class - excellent). There were others I am forgetting but you certainly get the idea.

At the showcase each class came up and demonstrated what they made (knitting, fleece, purse making, Backyard Ballistics, etc), what they learned (Contenders, math, science experiments, Betsy Tacy, etc). Rhiannon's favorites were the drama classes (which gave dramatic presentations and did a dance) and the Chemistry one which played a game with a circuit they built and had the audience match elements to their symbols. Ciaran's favorite was backyard ballistics, especially when they shot marshmallows into the audience with a projectile they made. There were also PE classes for the older kids and a class called Snack Servants - where the students made and served all the kids in the coop (over 100) snacks for the day.

It was amazing to see how well this worked and all that the kids and teachers were able to accomplish. More than what they learned though is the community that they are building. Sitting at the showcase I saw a group of about 9 boys in the preteen age (I am guessing 12-13 range) who are clearly a community of friends after three years in the same classes. Even my kids after just a few sessions have developed friends and sat with them in the general assemblies.

One memory from our coop that is burned into my mind is Rhiannon going to coop the week she realized she had to have her tonsils out. She was very nervous and uncomfortable about it. She went up to a few of the moms she knows there and explained what was going to happen and asked if they would please be praying for her. She felt comfortable enough with these women to ask that and with the children in the group as well. That is building community, that is an excellent coop.

I am so thankful that we were led to this group and have been accepted with open arms here.


Chronicles of Narnia Lesson Plan

A few weeks ago I wrote this post with several links for comprehensive Chronicles of Narnia lesson plan and printable materials. With the movie opening this week I thought I would repost it here. Be sure to see the movie and use these as follow up materials.

I will most likely be teaching a Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe class in our homeschool coop this spring for the 5th through 8th grade group. I will be sure to post my lessons as we do them. I am very excited for this class as there is so much inside that book when you dig a bit deeper.

If you have not read them yet - the entire Chronicles of Narnia is a good series of read-alouds or chapter books for age appropriate readers.


December 9, 2005

December 2005 Reading List

Ten Little Ladybugs - Gerth, Melanie
Today I feel Silly - Curtis, Jamie Lee
What if Zebras Lost Their Stripes - Reitano, John
Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon - Lovell, Patty
Welcome Comfort (a Christmas story) - Polacco, Patricia
Enormous Turnip, The - Tolstoy, Alexei
Motorbikes - Oxlade, Chris
Where the Wild Things Are - Sendak, Maurice
Ship of Dreams - Morrissey, Dean
Madagascar It's a Zoo in Here - Steele, Michael

Stellaluna - Cannon Janell
Looking for Atlantis - Thompson, Colin
Library, The - Stewart, Sarah
Pocket full of Kisses - Penn, Audrey
It Looked Like Spilt Milk - Shaw, Charles
Muncha!Muncha! Muncha! - Fleming, Candace
One Morning in Maine - McCloskey, Robert
Snowy Day, The - Keats, Ezra
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No good, Very Bad day - Viorst, Judith
It's Spring - Berger, Samantha

Anansi the Spider - McDermott, Gerald
Magic School Bus at the Water works - Cole, Joanna
Monkeys, Apes and Other Primates - Lucas, Andres
Skywalker Family Albulm, The - Alfonsi, Alice
Year at Maple Hill Farm, The - Provensen, Alice and Martin
Duck for President - Cronin, Doreen
Tails - Fleet, Martin Van
Story of Jonah - Wickenden, Nadine
Korean Cinderella, The - Climo, Shirley
Giggle, Giggle, Quack - Cronin, Doreen

On Morning Wings - Lindbergh, Reeve
Cat in the Hat Comes Back - Dr Suess
Go Dog Go - Eastman, PD
Seven Days of Creation, The Sticker Book - Dayspring Cards
Ten Little Monkeys - Dalby, Danny

Rhainnon Reads

Kirsten Story Collection (all six books) - Shaw, Janet
Meet Kit - Trip, Valerie
Changes for Kit - Trip, Valerie
Hundred Dress, The - Estes, Eleanor
Anne of Green Gables - Montgomery, LM (in progress as Read Aloud with mom)
Pollyana - Porter, Eleanor (in progress as main read)
Stopping By woods on a Snowy Evening - Frost, Robert

Last updated - December 9, 2005

Just Keep Knitting

Blogging may be light next week or so as I try to finish all my Christmas projects. A complete list will be up after Christmas (so people can be surprised). Right now I am knitting by ship date!

Shipped out to my siblings and the great grandparents today. Current ship total 145.00 with atleast another four packages to go! I still have many projects to finish. So basically any free moment I have I will be knitting. Since I have not yet mastered knitting and typing at the same time, things will be quiet.


December 7, 2005

Just For Fun

If you have 15 minutes to kill, this is fun. Remember the game 20 questions? Now it is online and not too bad. I have stumped it and have gotten it to go over the 20 limit a few times but often the program has been correct. Check it out. Disclaimer I am not to blame if you get engrossed.


Ciaran's Toilet Paper Game

Today Ciaran was feeling creative and I was feeling patient. It turned into a good combination but I must admit a twinge of panic arose as I watched my 4 year old son carry 12 full rolls of toilet paper into his bedroom.

I took a deep breath and let it go on. He came to find me and ask me to play a game with him. I said after he cleaned his room and he said that it was part of the game so I agreed. Here is what I walked into. Are you ready, do you feel my sense of panic and preemptive pain?....

It's not as bad as either you or I feared, it was creative and fun and he came up with it all by himself. I found all twelve rolls of toilet paper stacked on top of one another on his top bunk (which has plywood not a mattress) He told me I needed to pick one.

Seeing the confusion on my face he told me some of them had something hidden inside and we needed to see who got the most. I choose one and stuffed inside the toilet paper roll (in the part you put on the roller) was a plastic frog (are you really surprised?) I smiled and realized where this was going. I was so proud of him to think of it and create his own game with what was around him.

We took turns choosing roles to see what we would find. He hid 6 frogs in the dozen rolls. He impressed me yet again when I chose one that did not have a frog in it. He peeked in the top (when he thought I was not looking) and I was sure he was going to find one with a frog. Instead he really surprised me. He chose the top one which he knew to be empty. He looked at me and smiled and said - I just wanted it to be even to help you out a little.

We tied in case you are wondering. But it was great fun, simple and creative and straight out of the mind of my precious 4 year old son. It was a shining moment in an otherwise challening indoor day in MN with temps to cold to send him outside. It was a blessing.


Science Experiment on Oil

Today after learning about plants and seeds we did a simple science experiment to see which fruits or seeds contain oil.

We began with a brown paper bag. We drew several circles on them. In each circle we placed small broken pieces of each of the following: apples, orange peel, olives, sunflower seeds and walnuts. We also placed several drops of water in one circle and several drops of oil in another. We labelled each spot.

Then Rhiannon made a hypothesis about which would contain oil. We wrote it here:

Rhiannon's hypothesis

Which will contain oil
sunflower seeds

Which will not contain oil

Then we ground each item into its circle. Careful to completly wash and dry our fingers between each item to not influence the items. Rhiannon made some observations as we did it. Finally we threw out the items and let the items dry. The results of our experiment were as follows:

Experiment Results

Those that contain oil

Those that do not contain oil

Observations according to Rhiannon.
"You could tell which ones had oil when you held it up to the light and the ones with oil in them made a patch you could see through, a white patch on the cardboard. The items with oil also left a stain on the paper where the water dried up"

Building Clay Houses

Today for history we were studying early Indian civilizations and how they built their homes out of mud and clay baked and stacked. Rhiannon got to work with air drying (because baking was too time intensive for me) and rolled out the clay and cut it into bricks which she had to stack into a home. She made a rather small but detailed replica. She even made chairs with people in them and a little stable. It is air drying now.

Story of the World is such an engaging and fun history program I am thankful we are doing it. She enjoys it and the activities keep it interesting.

Carnival of Unschooling

Nice job putting this together Ron and Andrea. Excellent reads.


Why I Prefer the Cold

As I type this the temperature hovers around 6 degrees with the windchill dropping it into the negatives, snow falls lightly. It was even colder this morning. Still I will admit it I prefer the cold to the hot. I feel I can make an honest judgment as I have experienced both in their extremes. An interesting thing about Minnesota is that the weather people typically say whether the temp is positive or negative, because it is not rare. I have experienced negatives in the double digits before the windchill, you don't even want to know how cold that feels with the windchill.

On the other hand I have lived in the heat as well. Having lived in southern Georgia where the temps stay in the upper 90's from May-late September. Where the temps rise into the 100's and the humidity is so thick it feels like you can not breathe. Where a friend visiting from Benin Africa made this comment "This is Africa hot"

So why do I prefer the bone chilling, hair nose freezing cold to the hottest days of summer? Because no matter how cold it gets you can always add more layers. The opposite can not be said for no matter how hot it gets. My heating bills are still lower than the air conditioning bill which is not a luxury but a necessity in heat like that. And I can easily create warm moments in a cold climate but never really mastered creating cool moments in a hot climate.

I've taken up knitting and crocheting - my mother taught me and between her gifts and the talents of my hands one is never far from a blanket or sweater in our home. I like snuggling up under blankets and reading to my kids. I like that they play in the snow (which never melts because it is too darn cold) and then we have hot tea and cocoa. I prefer this to the stickiness of the heat - who wants to snuggle close and read in that kind of weather?

Even going outside - I can dress warm and manage from place to place here. We wear layers, buy good clothes and move fast (the cold motivates you to move quickly to your next stop). When I went outside in Georgia I still needed to be clothed and even if I could have gone in just my bathing suit I know I would never have been able to get cool in that heat.

So on days like this when I can feel the chill even inside my nice warm house I am thankful. I am thankful I live in the cold. I am thankful for my heater. I am thankful for my home and for the craft of my hands and of the women of generations before me. I am thankful for the warm moments that you can easily create even in the coldest of climates and moments.


December 6, 2005

Rhiannon's Fairytale

Here is a fairytale as Rhiannon wrote it today as she recited it I typed it. Grammar was not a consideration - I was doing my best to keep up with her as she spoke.

Rhiannon's Fairytale

Once upon a time there was a young man who wished he were king of the 30 continents. He fought for cities and begged them to let him be their king. Finally one of the cities let him be their king. Because their kings before had not treated them good. He ruled them well. But people in other cities around that city got jealous. People came and asked him to be their king too. So the young man's name turned from Chel to The King of the 30 continents.

And soon all 30 continents were turned into his empire. They asked him to conquer cities and make them rich. But he did not. He made friends with other cities and let their kings stay in charge of the cities. But he asked them to be part of his empire. They all gladly accepted the invitation. They made friends but people in the south continent surrounding the empire did not like that they were getting so rich and powerful they said let's attack the city. But the wise people in the city said no lets make friends with the city. That is what they did.

After the king's death his sons ruled wisely as well. His empire grew and after awhile people started coming from cities afar to live in their city even though they didn’t have a king once in awhile they still obeyed the laws their great king had given them. Another young man came to the throne he saw that the people obeyed the laws so he obeyed them to. They survived many attacks and saved many cities and made friends with many cities as well. His empire lasted for a long time.

One day an evil god from the clouds said I do not like the way people obey one Kings laws. I shall send down a wild beast to destroy their city. A wild lion that was half man and half god was sent down from the clouds and destroyed parts of that empire. Brave people stuck together and destroyed that wild beast and rebuilt the parts of the empire it had destroyed. Once again it was a powerful city.

People started turning against the people who had fought. Many people came and gave them gifts thanking them for destroying the wild beast that had destroyed their homes. So they started turning against the king. King Abush said "Let's make peace" so they divided the gifts people brought them between the 30 continents. They were happy again. Their city reigned for a long time. The End

P.S. People all over the world I hope will like this fairytale. Rhiannon

December 5, 2005

What's Under Your Christmas Tree?

I will tell you what was under mine today. A two year old hiding with a guilty pleasure smile on her face. As I approached I discovered why my dear Sirah was hiding under the tree. Along with her was a big tin of hot chocolate with marshmallow mix. Which was being properly shoveled into her mouth as fast as her little fist would allow her too.

I stifled a laugh mixed with an exasperated sigh. Let the dogs inside from the pleasant weather of 3 degrees and watched as they happily licked the remains of it off the carpet. I figure there is not much real chocolate in there anyway. Atleast I did not need to vacuum!


Kudos Homeschooler Michael Viscardi

"A 16-year-old, homeschooled California boy won a premier high school science competition today for his innovative approach to an old math problem that could help in the design of airplane wings.

Michael Viscardi, a senior from San Diego, won a $100,000 college scholarship, the top individual prize in the Siemens Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science and Technology."

Read the whole article here.


What Makes a Homeschooler Symposium

Last week I put out the question "What makes a homeschooler a homeschooler?" and sought out the wisdom of home educating bloggers. The answers that have been put together here are worth your complete attention and a full reading. Personally, I think they do an excellent job outlining many of the major issues and concerns in defining homeschooling.

I must admit I was surprised in the commonality of the answers. I was prepared for more diversity and perhaps heated discussion. All who gave me a final submission are included here. There were others who expressed interest but did not offer a submission. Many due to the holiday season. Here are the submissions for your enjoyment.

Ron and Andrea at Atypical Homeschool outline the three characteristics of a homeschooler:

"The first characteristic we identify with homeschooling is that it is an education which is created or developed in the home...The second characteristic we identify with homeschooling is educational independence...The third characteristic we identify with homeschooling is the individualization of education..." Read the entirety of their post.

The following interview in Home Education Magazine illustrates the importance of keeping strong distinctions between homeschooling and home-based public charter schools:

"Sometimes when these discussions happen about home-based public school programs it can be easy to think that the discussion is about the "right" way to homeschool. That is a common misperception and misunderstanding especially for those parents who have recently enrolled their children in a home-based charter school program. The discussions can sadly, throw them for a loop. Asking for clarity in language when there are discussions or articles about these educational options, isn't an attempt to be exclusive or judgmental to any parent for their choice. Again it is the issue of attempting to prevent homeschooling from being viewed as any form of "public schooling". We do not want homeschoolers to be viewed as "public schoolers at home" by the media, the legislatures, the general public or the homeschool community."

Tim who often writes over at Home Education & Other Stuff sent this submission via email:

"Parents who use home-based but state-funded educational options are often shocked and hurt when those who educate their children wholly outside the system tell them they aren't "homeschoolers". "But we're teaching our children at home!" they say, followed quickly by accusations of hypocrisy and elitism.

I'd like to assure these folks that no one is questioning their choices or their approach -- just their terminology, and it's not because we're snobs. There is a huge battle brewing over the future of educational freedom, and hybrid programs such as cyber-charters and part-time enrollment are perhaps the best weapon the other side has come up with.

I've always recognized that home education -- representing as it does the most sustained assault in decades on the government's primary tool of social control -- is inherently political. Every family who thinks little Johnny and Jill would simply learn better at home is really taking part in a revolution that fundamentally questions both the competence and the right of the state to determine what and how our children learn.

Education officials and lawmakers see this, but have become generally powerless to stop it -- our numbers are now such that outright attempts to regulate are routinely crushed in committee or are never even raised for fear of an onslaught. So they've had to get sneaky and create something that blends the best physical and emotional characteristics of homeschooling with the financial, curricular, and legal control of public education.

And it's working -- states that offer charters, part-time enrollment, and "independent study programs" are seeing a leveling off of the number of statutory home educators. That's phase one. Phase two is to continue to build a hybrid constituency while waiting out the current generation of "freedom or death" home educators who make their lives so difficult. Once the numbers are in their favor, phase three kicks in -- changing the laws to herd the much-weakend FODers into the public system.

Reflexive insistence that "school at home=homeschooling" no matter what is clear evidence that the plan is working. Parents who take this line are unwittingly undermining the educational and parental freedom of a bunch of ornery people who have been fighting battles for 25 years and have no intention of losing now. And let me point out that we FODers aren't singling out such parents -- every time a reporter or a local official equates hybrid schooling with homeschooling, they face the same blast.

On a more positive note, charters and other kinds of hybrids could end up being a concurrent revolution -- just about anything that removes children from industrial schooling, even part-time, is a step forward in my book, and one I'm happy to help support -- but first their users and proponents have to recognize their category error and adjust their rhetoric accordingly."

Annette offers a powerful listing of information and quotes that look at the importance of funding, accountability and strings in control of education at AHA Focus on Charter Schools

"The freedom, autonomy and independence that are distinctives of private education become trade-offs for financial gain. There is a direct correlation between bureaucratic government and the decrease of personal liberty. Private education is coming under a legislative microscope in this country, because it takes a microscope to see the lines that are successfully being blurred.

Snips and quotes regarding the relationship between public funds, public accountability and strings... Be sure to read through the entire post and this one as well.

Annette pulls this quotes together to show how it applies to homeschooling more directly here:

"It is not a theory that public funds come with strings, it is a fact. There is a relationship between funding and greater accountability and control. Moreover, there are indications when a portion of a given sector (i.e., private schools) accepts public funding, all of that particular sector in a state is at risk of coming under the "legislative microscope". If homeschoolers are perceived as accepting public funds to homeschool, then all the h hmeschoolers in that state risk coming under the legislative microscope. It is happening, and it is an example of a negative impact to homeschooling. The solution I present is to delineate between home-based public school programs and the principles found in homeschooling."

Kim from Life in a Shoe offers her Ultimate Goals in Homeschooling:

Why do you homeschool? What if homeschooling did not produce the benefits listed? Would you still homeschool? In our household, our ultimate goal in homeschooling is to produce children who will serve and glorify God. Plain and simple. This is, after all, man's chief end." Read her descriptions of how that influences her homeschooling.

Finally my own two posts that spurred the idea for me. Check out Q and A with MN virtual Academy which concedes state funding and proves that students enrolled in virtual public schools are legally 100% public schoolers NOT homeschoolers:

1. Can you please outline for me who funds your program? Is it state funded, district funded, grant funded, etc? I am referring to the MNVA.
"As a parent open enrolling 100% to Houston Public schools you would not have a financial responsibility. We are state funded like any other public school student."

3. If enrolled in MNVA is my child legally considered a public school (charter school) student or is she a homeschooler?
"Your child would be considered 100% open enrolled to Houston as a public school student."

In conclusion read my summary of the issue at Homeschooling or Public School at Home:

"The best analogy to sum it up is the difference between homeschooling and public school at home to me is the difference between working at home for a company and owning your own home based business. While both may be done at the same location - the location does not make everything about them the same. If I own my own business I call the shots, I am fully responsible and accountable for my actions. In short I am in control. If on the other hand I work from home for a company - I simply control the location I am in - I am still accountable to the office, they own my work and they make my assignments and decide if I do them well or not. In short, they are in control and I simply gain the freedom of being in my own home.

To conflate the two concepts of telecommuting (working at home) and owning your own home based business would have serious legal implications and therefore the two are kept distinct and separate. The same must be true for the distinction between homeschooling and participating in a public school program in your home. If you do not wish to see the laws and standards of public schooling foisted upon home educators then be sure the two concepts do not become conflated. We can not allow the two concepts to be merged into one or the laws will become muddled and confusing. Keep homeschooling and public school in the homes separate as they should be."

Thank you to all who submitted and to all who read this. It is an important question one that all home educators must think through and make decisions about where and when to stand their ground.


December 3, 2005

On Harry Potter

Bravo Christina for taking a stand and clearly articulating it. As a fellow reader and watcher of Harry Potter, though not yet with my children, I agree with much of what you have said.

I will engage in a discussion if people wish to know my reasons. Still I find myself often frustrated in discussions with those who have not read the books. I have no problem with their choice. It does bother me when they have a problem with my decision without fully educating themselves first either about the books themselves or about my reasons for enjoying them.

I have mostly taken a non-confrontational approach. I mostly avoid the discussion. I mostly stay quiet as others discuss these issues. Still I own all the books and the movies. I have knit house scarves and I do not share the concerns of most of my fellow Christians.

It often throws people for a loop when they enter our home library and find the entire Harry Potter series on the shelf above the entire Left Behind series. The shelf next to it contains Tolkien and CS Lewis as well. Yet those never seem to cause distress.

In the end each family must read and make their choices. In the end they will have their reasons and they will be different from each other. Serona and I have chosen one way while most of our Christian friends have chosen another. Still I am just as confident and comfortable in my decision as they are in theirs.

Christina really inspired me as I took on a subject I have long avoided mentioning here.


December 1, 2005

What Makes a Homeschooler a Homeschooler Symposium

***Will keep this post on top for remainder of week, new posts below*********

In light of recent discussions over public school at home and homeschooling I would like to offer some space for an online symposium (similar to Spunky's Online Convention - only dedicated to one subject) to discuss what makes a homeschooler a homeschooler. What are the legal issues? What are the charachteristics and choices that make an individual home educated or home schooled rather than a public school/charter school/or private school student? What are the important distinctions? Your posts can cover issues like virtual charter schools, public school at home and the defintions of homeschooling.

Many of you have strong opinions on this issue and many of you are very smart and passionate about this subject. Let us work together to see if we can come up with good ways to define homeschooling and protect the rights of all homeschoolers.

Here are the guidelines. Please write a post (it can be a previous or older post) and email me your link as a submission at by Saturday December 3rd and I will organize and post all the submissions on Monday December 5th. If you do not have a blog I will accept and publish an emailed piece that meets the guidelines.

Please be respectful of all while writing your piece. Your opinion may be strong and you should express it but please be respectful of those with a different opinion. Keep the posts well reasoned, avoid attacks and keep the focus on the issues and not on the people. As moderator I reserve the right to retain full editorial control over what to post and what not to. Though I intend to publish any post that meets the above guidelines irregardless of if I personally agree with the point of view or not.

Please post this on your blog and spread the word. I look forward to reading what everyone has to say.


Warm winter clothes - MN style

I started to write this as a comment and then realized more people may want to read about it. The key to our pleasant MN winters is to stay warm. I found my kids still needed to be outside - even when below 30) and the key was to buy them good warm clothing. I thought I would share some wisdom from Minnesota with you.

We buy most of our supplies from LL Bean and it has made all the difference. Be especially vigilant about boots, snowpants and above all winter coat. It is worth the extra money. We buy neutral colors and pass them down from child to child and bean has a wonderful warranty - return it period and they will exchange it or refund you if it did live up to expectations of normal wear and tear. You can also buy things on clearance. I don't work for bean or invest in bean (though I probably should), I just find them to be hands down the best company for our winter supplies.

Here is what we use:

For kids and adults - Rugged Ridge Parka for a coat - warm, hood that can retract into coat, good pockets, lightweight and stands up to Minnesota cold (even the deep negatives). These usually get clearanced at the end of the season for almost half off - that is when we bought ours - we bought the kids two sizes two big the first year, rolled the sleeves and they just had added length. Ciaran and Rhiannon are both in their third year with their coat (this year it is their actual size) and next year it passes down - still in great condition. Serona and mine still look new after four years with a little staining.

Kids and parents - boots - Sorel packing boots. We again got ours at LL Bean's warehouse in Maine but even Target carries them. They don't look like they will be the warmest but they are. They are worth the money. For adults we also like the LL Bean Wildcat boots (available in slip on or tie like a hiking boot).

Snowpants - If you want your kids rolling in the snow, sledding without getting cold and so on spend the extra money and buy them good water resistant and lined snowpants. Also available at bean. We have the Katahdin Pants (I prefer the bib but they were not on sale at the time) and Glacier Summit Pants - they also have rugged ridge that would be good. Watch the clearance page in Jan or Feb, sometimes as late as March. They even have some on clearance now. Use Bean's comparison chart to see how cold it is recommended for, what it is lined with and more details.

For adults only (I do not recommend this for kids as believe it or not they get too hot and start complaining and wanting to take layers off).

Purchase a pair or two of llbean's silk long underwear. Don't cringe away - it is not the long underwear you remember. It is wonderfully comfortable, soft (as silk) and even though it appears paper thin keeps you warmer than anything.

The winter we moved here form Georgia I bought a pair (5 years ago) and I will never go back. It was the key to my warmth that year and many years to come. Often I just wear the pants underneath my regular pants and that is sufficient.

And don't forget mittens are warmer than gloves and scarves (if you can get kids to wear them) make a huge difference in how warm you stay.

You may not need to bundle up this much in warmer climates but it is a great way to stay warm. The difference a good winter coat makes goes a really long way - as do the long underwear - for adults those are my two first recommendations for kids a good coat and boots would be first on the list.

Get out there and enjoy winter again!

Scholastic Book Fair

For MN residents, the annual Scholastic book fair is coming up next week. You can find great deals here. In general 50% of list price. But just like a homeschooling convention, plan your budget ahead and leave the rest at home or you could spend too much!

Here is the summary of information from their website. for more details and to preregister and avoid lines and get a coupon visit their website -

Brooklyn Park
Brooklyn Park Scholastic Warehouse
9201 Wyoming Avenue North
Brooklyn Park, MN 55316

December 7 - 17, 2005
P O. & Book Profit Day: Wed 12/7, 9-7 PM
Wed-14th, Thursdays, Fridays 10 AM-8 PM
Saturdays 9 AM -3 PM
Monday & Tuesday 10 AM - 3 PM

Many states have these sales through the year and as homeschoolers we can go. Visit here to find one near you.


November 30, 2005

What vegetarians eat

Today's lunch - kids choice. Here is what they chose to eat by consensus with ni input from me:

crackers and cheese
garbanzo beans (right out of a can)

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let it Snow!

One of the best parts about living in Minnesota is the snow. I love that it snows. I like it when we get a lot of snow and it stays around forever. I like that it is generally too cold for the snow to melt so it stays nice and white and pretty instead of turning into black slush like it does so many other places.

We have had a few snowfalls already. One completely melted and one has not. Still but a few inches I would like some more - so would the kids. They have been determined to sled even on a little bit of snow. Amazing to see how well they can make it work but how much nicer it will be with just a few more inches.

Yet another reason I love homeschooling. The kids can go outside and run around, sled, make snow angels and whatever they want for several hours in the morning before we start schoolwork. They are happier and therefore the day goes smoother. It is also an incentive to them to get their work done so they can go back outside again and play in the snow some more.

As the kids waiting on the bus stop are cold from standing still mine are tromping through the snow getting their snowpants wet and having a ball. As the kids head off to school mine keep playing in the snow for awhile longer. Come inside to some hot chocolate and some good reads. Then settle into the afternoon for some work. If they get their work done quickly they are back outside again before the school bus passes our house on its return.

It is true Minnesota winters are very cold but we buy really warm clothes and boots and once they are about 3-4 years old the cold does not really bother them and I find myself having to drag them inside even when it is below freezing. They are not even cold when they come inside! Of course those days when it dips below zero or we have severe windchills we are housebound but for the most part we make the best of Minnesota winters especially once the snow falls and stays. So let it snow!


November 29, 2005

Letting Them Be

Somedays we just need to let our agenda go and just let them be. Today our youngest Sirah is sick - the kid of curl up on your lap and do nothing sick. I was trying to keep things moving and it was just not working. We stopped for a bit while I got the next subject ready and I returned to the room and found Sirah laying across the laps of Ciaran and Rhiannon - enjoying a book.

Rhiannon has Sirah's head in her lap and was reading her book after book after book. Ciaran was rubbing her sore legs under the blanket and holding the next book as well as helping her reach her favorite stuffed animals.

Truthfully there is nothing better I could offer my kids today. There is nothing I could teach them more important. There is nothing worth breaking the care and compassion and love for their sister going on right now. So I walk away and let them be. I thought about staying but I think I would break the rhythm and the magic of that moment.

Eventually it will break itself but for now I will just let them be. Just walk away and place my agenda, my goals my sense of needs behind what they currently know to be more important. I will smile and be so thankful that my kids love one another so deeply and feel such care and compassion for one another. Smile that they can find comfort in each other and support one another. I will walk away thankful and praising.


November Reading List

The Real Mother Goose - Green Husky Book
Quick as a Cricket - Audrey Wood
How to Make an Apple Pie and see the world - Priceman, Marjorie
If You Give a Moose a Muffin - Numeroff, Laura
What if Zebras Lost Their Stripes - Reitano, John
All God's Creatures - Hill, Karen
Space Discoery Magic Skelton Book - Harrison, James
Night Tree - Bunting, Eve
Arthur's Camp Out - Honan, Lillian
My Mom is Great - Goldsack, Gaby

Footprints in the Snow Counting by Two's - Dahl, Michael
Hands Down - Counting by Five's - Dahl, Michael
Commander Toad in Space - Yolen, Jane
Young Mozart - Isadora, Rachel
Hop Jump - Walsh, Ellen Stoll
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day - Viorst, Judith
Marvin K Mooney - Dr Suess
Stand Tall Molly Luo Melon - Lovell, Patty
How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight - Yolen, Jane
Ten Little Ladybugs - Gerth, Melanie

Today I feel Silly - Curtis, Jamie Lee
Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do you see - Carle, Eric
Song for Little Toad - French, Vivian
Alphabet Adventure - Wood, Bruce
Curious George Plays Ball - Rey, HA
Dig Wait Listen: A Desrt Toad's Tale - Pulley, April
Pete's a Pizza - Steig, William
Snail's Spell, The - Ryder, Joanne
Tops and Bottoms - Stevens, Janet
Barn Cat - Saul, Carol

Lamb and the Butterfly - Sundgaard, Arnold
White is for Blueberry - Shannon, George
Copy Me Copycub - Edwards, Richard
Circus - Ehlert, Lois
Rop Cat - Ehlert, Lois
Walking Around the Garden - Prater, John
I Love you Little One - Tafuri, Nancy
Leo the Late Bloomer - Kraus, Robert
Penguins Animal Safari - National Geographic
Caterpillars of Ha- Ha - Lucado, Max

Tale of Peter Rabbit - Potter, Beatrix
Baby Animals Party, The - Ross, Katherine
Quick as a Cricket - Wood, Audrey
It's Spring - Berger, Samantha
Big Red ABrn - Brown, Margaret Wise
Prayers for Mealtime - Tyndale
Prayers for Little Hearts - Tyndale House
My First Treasury Mother Goose
Tails - Van Fleet, Matthew
At Nursery School - Granddreams Books

Time for Bed - Fox, Mem
Percival the Beautiful butterfly - Turner, jill
How Many Veggies - Vischer, Phil
God Made You Special - Mextexas, Eric
Story of Jonah - Wickenden, Nadine
Anansi the Spider - McDermott, Gerald
Animal Noises - Copycats
Stone Soup - Brown, AMrcia
Ballerina Bear - Siewert, Pauline
What If Zebras Lost Their Stripes - Reitano, John

Pocket Full of Kisses - Penn, Audrey
All God's Creatures - Hill, Karen
Jeremy Fisher - Potter, Beatrix
Twelve Hats for Lena - Katz, Karen
I'm Gonna Like Me - Curtis, Jamie Lee
Ten Little Ladybugs - Gerth, Melanie

Rhiannon's Reads
Harold at the North Pole - Johnson, Crockett
I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie - Jackson, Alison
Dinosaur Bob - Joyce, William
No Ponies in the House - Betancourt, Jeanne
Ponies from the Past - Betancourt, Jeanne
Moving Pony - Betancourt, Jeanne
Chocolate Touch - Catling, Patrick
Misty of Chincoteague - Henry, Marguerite
Stormy : Mistys Foal - Henry, Marguerite

Last Updated November 28, 2005