September 30, 2005

Illustrated Bible Sample

Rhiannon gave me permission to publish these illustrations she made for her illustrated bible. The first is her illustration of Day 6 of Creation (she did one for each day) and the second is of the fall. She creates and writes the summaries herself and the pictures are her vision of what happened.

Sample Math Sheet

Here is a worksheet from Miquon that Rhiannon completed this week.

A dedication to all the homeschooling moms...

I received this via email. I usually don't like forwards and truthfully often do not make them to the end. However, this one I enjoyed enough to post here to share with you. While I'm not as diligent as she I certainly could relate.


Mom and Dad were watching TV when Mom said, "I'm tired, and it's getting late. I think I'll go to bed."

She went to the kitchen to make sandwiches for the next day's lunches.

Rinsed out the popcorn bowls, took meat out of the freezer for supper the following evening, checked the cereal box levels, filled the sugar container, put spoons and bowls on the table and started the coffee pot for brewing the next morning.

She then put some wet clothes in the dryer, put a load of clothes into the washer, ironed a shirt and secured a loose button

She picked up the game pieces left on the table, put the phone back on the charger and put the telephone book into the drawer.

She watered the plants, emptied a wastebasket and hung up a towel to dry.

She yawned and stretched and headed for the bedroom. She stopped by the desk and wrote a note to the teacher, counted out some cash for the field trip, and pulled a text book out from hiding under the chair.

She signed a birthday card for a friend, addressed and stamped the envelope and wrote a quick note for the grocery store. She put both near her purse.

Mom then washed her face with 3 in 1 cleanser, put on her Night solution age fighting moisturizer, brushed and flossed her teeth and filed her nails.

Dad called out, "I thought you were going to bed."

"I'm on my way," she said.

She put some water into the dog's dish and put the cat outside, then made sure the doors were locked and the patio light was on.

She looked in on each of the kids and turned out their bedside lamps and TV's, hung up a shirt, threw some dirty socks into the hamper, and had a brief conversation with the one up still doing homework.

In her own room, she set the alarm; laid out clothing for the next day, straightened up the shoe rack. She added three things to her 6 most important things to do list. She said her prayers, and visualized the accomplishment of her goals.

About that time, Dad turned off the TV and announced to no one in particular. "I'm going to bed."

And he did...without another thought.

Anything extraordinary here? Wonder why women live longer...?
CAUSE WE ARE MADE FOR THE LONG HAUL..... (and we can't die sooner, we still have things to do!!!!)

September 29, 2005


That was the word of the day. We actually began our evening prayer thanking God for mud. The kids spent two hours playing in the mud. Our backyard has a huge mud puddle - we call it our lake. The kids have been begging to go into it. Tonight after dinner I had them put on them put on their mud boots and messy clothes and they played, they explored, they jumped, they invented games and ran around the entire yard.

When they were done they came in with boots in hand went right to the laundry room and then to their baths. After baths we had a nice storytime, Sirah even feel asleep on my lap while we were reading.

Prayers began with thank you God for mud. They had a great time and I had fun watching them and was able to get most of my house cleaned up while they kept the mess in the backyard!


September Reading List

Napping House, The - Wood, Audrey
Quiet Place, A - Wood, Douglas
Hans Brinker - Great Illustrated Classics (GIC) - Dodge, Mary Mapes
More Growing Up Stories: My First Winne the Pook - Disney
My First Abacus Book - Sharratt, Nick
Animal Noises, Copycats: Powell, Richard
Doves - McDonald, Mary Ann
Are You a Frog - Cassettari, Noeline
Clifford's ABC - Bridwell, Norman
How Do Dinosuars Get Well Soon - Yolen, Jane

Tadpoles - James, Betsy
Just Like You - Fearnley, Jan
Loon Lake - London, Johnathen
Adventures of a Nose, The - Scwarz, Viviane (a new Ciaran favorite)
We Had a Picnic This Sunday Past - Woodson, Jacqueline
Toy Brother, The - Steig, William
Giving Tree, The - Silverstein, Shel
Open Wide Tooth School Inside - Keller, Laurie
When Mama Comes Home Tonight - Spinelle, Eileen
I Love You the Purplest - Joose, Barbara M (great with siblings)

Mama Do You Love Me - Joose, Barbara M
Blueberry Shoe - Dixon, Ann
God Made All the Colors - Lion Publishing
Counting Kisses - Katz, Karen
Go Dog Go - Eastman, P.D.
Green Eggs and Ham - Dr Suess
Cat in the Hat Comes Back - Dr Suess
The Cat in the Hat - Dr Suess
I am Not Going to get up today - Dr Suess
Marvin K Mooney Will You Please Go Now - Dr Suess

There's a Wocket in my Pocket - Dr Suess
The Yucky Reptile Alphabet Book - Pallotta, Jerry
Frod and Toad are Friends - Lobel, Arnold
Little Sibu - Grindley, Sally
Little Blue Little Yelow - Lionni, Leo
Feathers, FLippers, and Feet - Lock, Deborah
Moon Landing, The Race Into Space - Kelly, Nigel
Lemon Drop Jar, The - Widman, Christine
I Am Really a Princess - Shield, Carol
Albert - Napoli, Donna

Growing Frogs - French, Vivian
Seven Loaves of Bread - Wolff, Ferida
Furry Alphabet Book - Pallotta, Jerry
Finklehopper Frog - Livingston, Irene
Bartholomew and the Oobleck - Dr Suess
Song for Little Toad, A - Frenh, Vivian
Ribbit Riddles - Hall, Katy
Pet, A: The Sound of P - Flanagan, Alice
Ten Little Ladybugs - Gerth, Melanie
Rainbow Frogs - Tyrell, Melissa

Eleventh Hour, The - Base, Graeme
Your Muscles - Ylviskaer, Anne
Let's Add Coins - Doudna, Kelly
Astronaut - Levin, Amy
Fantastic Frogs - Robinson, Fay
Golden Egg Book, The - Brown, Margaret Wise
Cats: The Sound of Short A - Flanagan, Alice
Hoptoad - Yolen, Jane
A Boy, a dog and a frog - Mayer, Mercer
Frog Goes to Dinner - Mayer, Mercer

Follow the Money - Leedy, Loreen
Night in the Country - Rylant, Cynthia
Loyalty - Raatma, Lucia
Princess and the Pizza, The - Auch, Mary Jane and Herm
This Land is My Land - Jakobsen, Kathy
Bird House, The - Rylant, Cynthia
Kisses - Szekeres, Cyndy
Baby's Boat - Titherington, Jeanne
Big Red Barn - Brown, Margaret Wise
At Nursery School - Granddreams books

Tails - Fleet, Matthew Van
Throw Your Tooth on the Roof - Beeler, Selby
Going West: My First Little House Books - Wilder, Laura Ingalls (adapted)
My L Sound Box - Moncure, Jane Belk
Your Lungs - Ylvisaker, Anne
Anansi the Spider - McDermott, Gerald
Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, The - Swift, Hildegarde
Commander Toad in Space - Yolen, Jane
Bargain for Frances, A - Hoban, Russell
Crippled Lamb, The - Lucado, Max

Peter Pan - Barrie, JM
Owls - Gibbons, Gail
Magic School Bus at the Waterworks - Cole, Joanna
I'd Be Your Hero: A Royal Tale Of Godly Character - O'Brien, Kathryn
I'd Be Your Princess: A Royal Tale of Godly Character - O'Brien, Kathryn
Cowboy Small - Leinski, Lois
Jumaji - Allsburg, Chris Van
Zathura - Allsburg, Chris Van
My Little Book of Birds - Ingoglia, Gina
Sugar Snow: My First Little House Books - Wilder, Laura Ingalls (adapted)

Read About Horses - Morris, Dean
If You Give a Moose a Muffin - Numeroff, Laura
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie - Numeroff, Laura

Books on Tape

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Dahl, Roald
Over Sea Under Stone - Cooper, Susan
Magic Tree House - Collection #7 - Osborne, Mary Pope
Little House in the Big Woods - Wilder, Laura Ingalls
Little House on the Prairie - Wilder, Laura Ingalls

Rhiannon Reads

Stuart Little - White, EB
Picture Bible, The - Hoth, Iva
Beauty and the Beast and Other Stories - Great Illustrated Classics (GIC)
Cinderella ad other Stories - GIC
Sleeping Beauty and other Stories - GIC
Snow White and Other Stories - GIC
Luke the Lion Hearted - Schneider, Antonie
Lemon Drop Jar, The - Widman, Christine
Liliana's Grandmothers - Torress - Leyla
Leo the Late Bloomer - Kraus, Robert

Babar and His Children - De Brunhoff, Jean
Bartholomew and the Oobleck - Dr Suess
Story of the Tooth Fairy, The - Paxton, Tom
Trumpet of the Swan - White, EB
Paddle to the Sea - Holling, Holling C.
Bargain for Frances - Hoban, Russell
Pony in the Field, A - Doren, Marion
Hour of the Olympics - Osborne, Mary Pope
Read About Horses - Morriss, Dean
Meet Kirsten - Shaw, Janet

Kirsten Learns a Lesson - Shaw, Janet
Kirsten's Surprise -Shaw, Janet
Happy Birthday Kirsten - Shaw, Janet
Kirsten Saves the Day - Shaw, Janet
Changes for Kirsten - Shaw, Janet
Swiss Family Robinson - GIC
The Complete Winnie-the-Pooh - Milne, AA
House at Pooh Corner, The - Milne, AA

Last updated September 29, 2005

September 28, 2005

Clap if You Believe...

To read books with children for their first time is such a treasure. To cry with them when Charlotte dies, to laugh at the bumbles of Winnie the Pooh (original AA Milne), to share the story of Aslan's sacrafice, to live like Laura and Mary, and of course to believe in fairies.

One of my favorite moments in a book to read with kids is when you help save Tinker Bell from dying in Peter Pan. We have been working through Peter Pan at nap time and just yesterday we all clapped and clapped to help save Tink. The kids eyes light up and you just see how into the story they are when they jump up to clap.

There are so many moments like that to treasure when we read our old favorites to our children. When we share these moments together - those are true blessings. Get out an old favorite, dust it off and climb onto the couch or bed or nearest pillow pile and read with your kids and share some of your favorite moments and make them family moments.


Daily Roundup

Ciaran worked on handwriting today and actually enjoyed it. He used a wipe and erase board to pracitce writing his letters - doing several rows of tracing and then a few rows on his own - he did capitol letters A-H. He also has been playing starfall on the computer lately. He is working through their preschool A-Z letter game and seems to enjoy it. For the last 15-20 minutes of schooltime he usually gets to play his Vsmile video game system.

I will say I was hesitant at first, but it really does have an educational focus. It is not a replacement for teaching your child but it does enhance it and let him feel he is playing a videogame. The games seem relatively harmless to me and he is learning number and letter recognition and simple math, matching and colors. I really think this has helped him learn his letters and definately his numbers. While it will never replace teaching a child I will give it more credit than I intially did in the beginning as another tool to use in small doses.

Rhiannon worked through math (mulitplication), history (first farmers and villages), literature (Ambleside readings), grammar (proper nouns), copywork (days of the week), bible study (cain and abel), memory verse, and free reading time. She even managed to last through the fighting and loudness of her siblings during this time.

Sirah in particular was a challenge today - her temper was in rare form today. She could not be pleased. I sat and played with her and read to her and tried a variety of things but she would not be pleased. Wonder whether she will get sick tonight or tommorrow or if it was just an off day.

We were supposed to go on a field trip today, to an apple orchard. However, it was cold, rainy and just not good weather. So we rescheduled it for next week. The kids were disappointed, but it worked out better since Rhiannon is sick.

When she is sick she loves to read, she is rereading the American Girl Kirsten books today. She burns through them laying on the couch while she is sick. Even Ciaran and Sirah are starting to want to be read to more again. That is the part I love about the cool of fall and the winter here in Minnesota - it is just perfect for curling up under a blanket and reading many good books.


September 27, 2005

She Touched My Heart

Rhiannon touched my heart today. She is in general an extremely empathetic and sensitive child. She is a peacemaker and loves to make people happy, especially her parents. She is compassionate and giving and caring by nature.

Tonight as the night wore on my patience grew thinner. The younger two were being difficult, loud and challenging. Getting them through storytime and into bed was becoming an Olympic event. Rhia could sense my growing frustration and the effect it was having on me.

She switched gears and just wanted to be helpful. She asked to call her dad to pray - then I discovered she shared with him that I had a headache and was not feeling well. She wanted to put her siblings to bed so I could rest. She was trying so hard to find a way to help me, anyway she could.

She helped Ciaran who was scared of his frogs in the dark, she sang to Sirah, she brought me a warm washcloth for my head and some water to drink. Did I mention she is just six years old?

After the younger two fell asleep she asked if she could rub my back and what else could she do to help me? She laid in bed with me and rubbed my back and chatted. Her kindness touched me more than anything else. She really was loving me and wanting to help however she could, it was on her heart to do so.

We ended up laying in bed talking for well over an hour and she shared some questions she has had about a variety of things. She was genuine and honest and I could see the difficulties she faces at such a young age with understanding so much. Her knowledge is already a burden and a blessing to her. It made me wish she could just be a carefree child without any knowledge. Yet I know that is not possible so we talked about it.

She wanted to know about my life and the things I have been through and things that I found difficult or challenging. She wanted to know more stories like the time I saw a bear while camping, swam with stingrays or sharks in the ocean, and got stung by jellyfish. I would not burden her with such things now and we were able to steer the conversation to more positive ground.

She shared her fear of my dying and what would happen to her and how she is glad she is homeschooled and can she always be with me or does she have to go to college? I told her we could revisit how she felt about that when she was about 16. The same answer we gave the kids when they asked why they could not marry each other.

It was a precious night. The kind of moments you just want to bottle up and keep taking out to refresh your spirit. The kind of moment you will always remember and be thankful you had. The kind of moment you want but can never create for yourself, they just have to happen.

I am so thankful that I did not shut her out tonight. It would have been easy to do. I was tired and truthfully I just wanted to be alone. Yet Rhia was persistent in her desire to show love and caring to me and in the end it gave us one of our best heart to heart and snuggle times in a long time if not ever.

Hug those children. Listen to their hearts. Cherish their love and their adoring hearts right now. Be there for them and let them be there for you, even when it seems to make things take longer. Let them love you and let them care for you in the ways they know how and are able to. Don't dismiss them, don't break their spirits. Build them up and let them love you as you love them.

Let your little ones touch your heart as you touch theirs. Let them talk while you listen. Let them care for you and do their best for you. Let them "give you the day off" like Rhia is going to one day this week. For we can never get these moments back and we need to cherish and treasure them so our children know how much we cherish and treasure them.


Making It Their Own

While Rhiannon has no choice about being schooled this year, the younger two don't really need to do anything. However, they want to and they keep me busy. Sirah, who just turned two is insistent that she do "schoolwork" too. She wanted a special binder of her own and is always trying to do whatever we do in her own way.

This morning I was working on letter collage's with Ciaran. We bought these wonderful precut letters that we use for collages. I keep a box of old magazines and we flip through them looking for words that start with the letter.

Today for the letter L we found pictures of letters, leopard, lynx, lever, leg, legos and lamp. While Ciaran and I were on the floor going through the magazines and Rhiannon was at her desk working on her math (multiplication with manipulatives) Sirah was insistent that she do some too. So she sat on the floor with us and used safety scissors to cut out pictures too and she put stickers on paper and drew and then she glued down precut shapes onto construction paper sop she could glue too. She now has her own binder to collect her works of art in. It was very important to her that it be put in a place that "ciaran not reach it!"

When Serona comes home and asks them about their day they all talk about their work. I am not making a 2 and 4 year old do school work, they want to do stuff so I try to find projects they can do. It helps me get stuff done with Rhiannon as well. Off to find more projects for them now.


September 26, 2005

Ambleside Online

As part of our curriculum we are using the free online Ambleside Curriculum, this is however not all we use. I like the schedule of reading Aesop's Fables, Poetry, Just So Stories and some other fables and living history type books each week. We have liked the books we are reading so far. However, I am not being rigid about the schedule.

Rhiannon absolutely loved the book "Paddle to the Sea" by Holling C. Holling and I was not about to tell her, no you have to wait to read the next two chapters next week. I know there is advantage to reading just small bits at a time, digesting and discussing and expanding on them. I know she did not get quite as much out of it as she might have had we done just two chapters a week. Yet she felt a passion for reading a book about the Great Lakes and all the geography and science around those. She went to find it on the globe and discuss it. She discovered that a "school" book is not dry. So why wait and make into something?

She also loves the Garden of Children's Verses and is unlikely to put it down after just one poem. I side with going with her interest even when I know she is getting more exposure to surface level than digging deep. There are times she wants to dig deeper. Like today in reading the Aesop Fable about the Jackdaw she wanted to know more about what kind of bird it was and that spurred some internet research and discussion.

For science this year I have all our books on a shelf and she goes and picks one and that starts our science lesson of the day. Today she picked an encyclopedia of sorts and was reading several pages about weather and storms, volcanoes, earthquakes, pretty much all the worst of natural disasters. She then asked to learn more about floods. So some days we dig deepr, some days we leanr a little about a lot of things and it all balances out in the end. That is one of the reasons I love the fleibility of homeschooling.


It Feels Like Christmas!

We are getting our carpets cleaned! Hooray! Long overdue. With three kids, two dogs and homeschooling, well you get the picture. Up until this point we have done it ourselves - but it takes forever and we are never happy with the quality of it. This time we decided to have them cleaned by someone else. It feel so wonderful to watch all that dirt go away!

I know much of it will return sooner than later but oh the feeling of clean carpets, it makes me feel spoiled and so thankful. I know it seems silly with winter and mud and more paint and clay and dough and ink and all that coming but I can always find a reason to wait. It is so nice to have it done.

It is even nicer when you find a well recommended person who just has his own business and it as nice as can be. So much nicer than the impersonal services you usually get. Besides he actually cares what my carpets look like in the end because he wants me to stay a customer and to refer others.

Have you noticed the trend of good customer service appreciation we have? In an age of dying customer service - Serona and I have responded with customer loyalty to the places that give us excellent customer service, even when it means paying more (which it often does but it is worth the difference). Some common places we have found with excellent customer service are LL Bean, Hammacher Schlemmer, Simon Delivers, Circuit City, Byerly's, and believe it or not Target.

These are places that have our loyalty as customers and receive our business over and over again, even though there are cheaper options. LL Bean and Hammacher are two of my favorites as they have a no exceptions return policy that we have used legitimately a few times (especially where Roomba is concerned). Yet we have found their quality is generally so good that the return policy rarely needs to be utilized. We bought winter coats for the kids three years ago (this will be their third winter in them) and they are still like new. They will easily pass from child to child.

We believe in supporting local businesses and typically do. However, truth be told when it comes to making a big purchase we typically look to the company we know has excellent products and will stand by them. If they are local all the better, but sometimes they are not and a Hammacher or LL Bean is the right choice for us.

So start thinking about customer service and customer loyalty when you make your purchases.


September 24, 2005

Treasures of Their Heart

I have been blessed with three children who love to give gifts. Lately they have really taken to collecting beautiful rocks for me. At first blush this can be easy to overlook or dimiss but they truly are beautiful and when you take time to look at each rock a child gives you there is so much more apparent. I can tell that the kids really took time looking at each rock they gave me.

When I see a large bucket coming my way my first instinct is to think they just scooped up some rocks but careful examination shows me that everything they picked is truly beautiful. I have watched Rhiannon sitting in the piles of rock slowly going through each one turning it over and over and then deciding whether to cast it aside or to put it into my treasure box. The large bucket actually represents a lot of time and thought put into each rock I receive.

Children love to give and their means are limited so they use what is available to them, nature. That is why as parents we receive an endless collection of rocks, flowers, bugs, leaves, acorns and other items like this. Why we need to treasure those matchbox cars, shiny precious jewels, stickers, and other toys given to us.

The true value and meaning of these gifts lies beneath the surface. Special drawings, coloring, and all the gifts from the heart our kids give to us each day. They mean so much more than we often give them credit for. The children are sharing the treasures of their heart and they are precious to them and we need to treasure them as precious to us. That is why I have two rock collections and wilting flowers in my kitchen right now. Why I have a special box on my dresser that I take out from time to time (yes when they can see me) and look through the collection of shiny red heart, little jewels, matchbox cars and the like. Why Serona's cube and our refrigerator is plastered with pictures and other works of art. Enjoy those treasures.


September 23, 2005

Illustrated Bible

This year for bible study we are working through the main bible stories one week at a time. As part of the lesson. The first day she reads it, the second and third day she needs to draw a picture to illustrate it and the last day she needs to write some sentences to summarize it. We are placing each page in sheet protectors and in a binder in order. So far we have done the story of creation, she did one illustration for each day, and the fall of Adam and Eve.

At first she was resistant to do this activity as her confidence in her illustrating abilities is low but as I told her that it did not need to be perfect or detailed then she was willing to try. Once she started she found she really enjoyed the activity. Now she seems to enjoy it.

This is a nice activity that can be used over the years. We plan on integrating our history timeline right in with the bible illustrations so she can see what world events were going on at the same time. I got this idea from "My Father's World Curriculum" which also recommends doing this again in third grade and you can see the progress and change over the years.

You may want to consider it, the finished product really is something special. Anyone who has kept a nature notebook knows it is a wonderful proccess to keep it all in one location and see the natural progression of ability and interest.


First Day of Coop

First day of coop. It was great, a bit overwhelming at first with so many people and so many things going on but it was amazing to watch how it settled in and so much was accomplished. The day is divided up into three one hour sessions. Sirah is in a nursery type play setting for all three hours. Rhiannon and Ciaran have a similar structure to their time though they are in different groups based on their age.

The day opens for us in a big assembly. Everyone together and we sing several praise songs. Today they introduced all the new families, there were several of us. In the future this is a time when kids can showcase their talents to the larger group. Today one boy came forward, age 11 who is going on a mission trip with his father to Kenya next month. They will be visiting an orphanage and asked us to bring in beanie babies for the kids there. After assembly we all break off into our own classes.

Both follow a Five in a Row structure for the first hour. Reading a storybook and learning lessons all based around that book. Second hour they have music time, do crafts and have a snack. Third hour is P.E. I am in Ciaran's class for first and third hour and have 2nd hour off, where I can relax and socialize with other parents, have coffee and a snack.

Today in Rhiannon's class they read "The Story of Ping" and did several activities around the book. They learned how to say a few words in Chinese, learned about the geography of China and the Yanghtzee River. They made two crafts based on the book and talked about ducks. She sang several songs, had a snack and then played many fun field games. One she was very excited about involved popping balloons with lolipop sticks.

Ciaran's class was based on "Cowboy Small" by Lenski, Lois. I helped out in the class and the leader was excellent. She began by reading them the book and then had many hands on items to show them including curry combs, all the clothes (bandanas, chaps, hat, boots, spurs, etc), tin cups, lasso, and a full saddle and bridle. She held up each item and talked about what it was used for. She also talked about caring for animals and tied it into the bible verses about caring for animals.

Then the kids got to dress up in cowboy get up, vests, skirts, chaps, holsters, boots and bandanas and each had a horse on a stick that they rode all around the building and outside. They rode to the "campfire" where they tried beans and beef jerky (Ciaran didn't have the jerky) and then they did barrell races on the horses and tried lassoing a large stuffed cow with rope. They rode back inside from their "round-up" and learned the song home on the range and made bandanas. Then snack time and game time. One thing I really appreciate about snack time is that it is made by students in the coop who are part of "snack servants". Today they made little homemade pizzas for each student involved in the coop - that is over 100 students!

For games we had them do another roundup ride (this time without all the getup). We played a version of "Sharks and Minnows" but instead they were cows and cowboys. The cowboys were all on horses and had to catch the cows. Then they switched teams. When they tired of this we played "duck, duck goose" only it was "cow, cow, cowboy". We also did more barrell races and took a picture of all the kids. Rode back inside and got everyone drinks and they played with the toys until parents picked them up.

The kids were excited and had a great time. I was tired after the gym class. Somehow having just 11 children between the ages of three and four is absolutely exhausting. Maybe because it was my job to burn off the energy that these kids have after having to concentrate and focus for so long. All it all it was a great day.


September 22, 2005

Nomads Lesson

We are starting Story of the World over this year, she wasn't really ready last year. I am glad we did it as she had fun and we did some fun things but we will be starting at the beginning again. I went through the book with her to see if she remembered any and she remembers a few things but was interested enough to go through it again. So we started on nomads today.

We read the section, talked about it quite a bit and then did two activities. First, she made cave drawings on crumpled brown paper making outlines. She made one that illustrates a hunt and then another that illustrates their camp. They are still drying now! After painting she went outside and had to create a shelter from whatever was available to her. Her first attempt was to say it was already built since we have a fort in our swing set. I had to give her credit. But explained she needed to be able to make it herself. She went to work and used the slide as part of the shelter (I let it slide) and then took apart the playhouse we have and used the roof as walls. She fortified it with playtrucks and pieces of cardboard she found.

We talked about how they would not have those amterials available. She however did not have animal hides lying around either. Then I had her spend 15 minutes laying in her homemade shelter to think about what it would be like. I encouraged her to think about all different kinds of weather and reminded her of the terrible storm we had last night. We did not see the tornadoes in case you are worried and our house was fine, no damage.

When she was done she had to tell me how she thought it would work and what nomads live like. Rhiannon has asked me this year not to publish her work here without her permission so I am not going to share what she said but it was a great lesson and I think it stuck home with her. These activities were listed in the Story of the World Activity book, a must buy if you are using the SOTW for history.


September 21, 2005

Preschool Lessons

Ciaran and I had a fun morning. We have a big foam alphabet mat and alphabet wooden blocks and we made a game of it. I handed him a letter and he had to identify it - I would say he got about 1/2 the letters right the first guess. Then he had to bring it over to the matching letter on the mat. We did it with the whole alphabet, he got nearly every match right (W, M, and E, F were confusing for him). Then for cleanup I would say a letter and he had to try to find it and bring it to me, this was much harder for him. Even with using the sounds and words that started with the letter, it was tough for him to put it all together. He got about 1/4 of them right the first time but with help was able to manage it.

Then we played a number game with a big foam number mat. I lined them all up in order 1-10 and then had him jump the numbers and say them aloud several times. After he got that down - I would say a number and he had to jump to it, I jumped, forward and back, skipped numbers and repeated them and he did very well at this game.

We finished up with some foam blocks. I would say "Can you find three purple blocks" and put them on the right number, he would count them and bring them to the right number. It was great fun and it worked on colors, matching, counting, sets and number recognition. When this became too easy I had him start counting the blocks on several numbers (for example 2 and 3) and then he said he had 5 - I told him that was adding and he just added 2 plus 3 to equal 5. Then he picked up the numbers from 4 and added them to make 9 and brought all the blocks over to 9 and then added one more to make 10 and all the blocks were on the number 10. I had him build a house with them. To which he said I will build a strong and safe house.

Then I asked him to take away 2 of his blocks and he carried them over to the number two and I asked him how many were left and he counted 8 and moved the blocks to 8. I talked about subtraction and how he had just done that. We did a few more of these and then he wanted to add them back together again. He wanted to make another house with 10 blocks and I asked him how he would get them together. He said he needed more blocks from what he had on the number 5. I sadi what would you do to get more blocks and he smiled up at me and said "Say please?" I laughed and smiled and so did he then he brought over more blocks counting them and putting them on the right number until he got 10 and made another house.

It was great fun, a gentle and easy way to introduce math skills even addition and subtraction and the whole time we were playing a game in his mind. He did surprise me with the fact that he recognizes all his numbers 1-10 pretty consistently. I did not realize he knew them. He also can easily match number and set.

We had fun. While we were doing all this Rhiannon read The Trumpet of the Swan by EB White. She is sick today and we are taking it easy, doing mostly reading work for school. I do believe she will finish this book today, having just started it last night. Sirah joined in as she could and played and jumped and tried to do everything we were.


September 20, 2005

School's In

We finally started a more regular schedule of school with Rhiannon. We plan on about three hours a day, with short lessons in a wide variety of subjects. To give you an idea, this was roughly our schedule this morning.

7am - wake up, clean room and eat breakfast
8am - free playtime - mostly outdoors
9am - noon - School

We start with a family prayer, each person takes a turn praying and then they say the pledge. We read a bible story (today was Adam and Eve) and talk about it a bit. Then she moved into math - worked on skip counting by 2's and 3's. Sirah and Ciaran worked together to build a train track on the floor. Rhia did a worksheet and I played with the younger two.

Grammar was next, a review of nouns which transferred into copywork as she copied sentences I wrote on the board combining common and proper nouns. Copywork turned into art as she wanted to draw a picture to illustrate the sentence she wrote.

While she worked on that I helped Ciaran practice writing the letter L and he finished coloring his L pictures coloring book. Sirah generally made a mess with dot painters and played on her musical instruments. Then Ciaran and Sirah got out the messy craft box and began playing with glue, scissors, pipe cleaners, markers, and the like. Ciaran made a lion out of sandpaper and pipe cleaners. Sirah just made a mess, but had a lot of fun.

While they were entertaining themselves, Rhia and I read from our Ambleside readings - covering some history and fables. She did a narration and we talked about the stories. She recited three poems she has memorized and then worked on illustrating this weeks bible story (Adam and Eve).

I helped clean up the messes and then played trains with the younger two. Rhia then worked on spelling. I gave her the words while playing on the floor with the kids. She did one more math sheet - a review of addition and subtraction of three numbers. She ended her school by practicing playing her lap harp. During this time the younger two took turns playing computer games they enjoy.

We ended with about 15 minutes cleaning up the room, complete with the vacuuming it desperately needed after the morning. We started all that at 9am and were done at 12:15. It was very productive and went quickly, we are done for the day. Rhia was so pleased she said it seemed like no time at all and could not believe it was all done.

I was relieved when the time was over as it is an intense and very dividing time for me as everyone wants and needs my attention at the same time. But it is a brief, crazy, productive and fun time. Even with all the challenges I am so thankful for the choices we have made and the opportunities we have.


September 19, 2005

Soccer Mom

Today we took the final step into suburban life, we went to soccer. It is funny you know the whole "soccer mom" thing. Well soccer was fun and the kids had a great time. They both get to participate because it is in the same league, same night and same location. Typically we will only allow one child to have an activity per season (not one activity per child) because we don't want to live in the car and lose dinners and all that goes with getting super involved. This year they could participate in the same league at the same location and same time so it was hard not to say yes they could both do it.

The kids are on seperate teams so we played rock paper scissors to see who took Sirah with them. I won and took my knitting and a chair and Serona got the stroller and Sirah! Don't think I will be so lucky again!

The only downside to the whole night was the bugs. They completely took us off guard as we have had a relatively bug free summer. They were thick and terrible, we are all covered in bites and the kids bites tend to swell.

Well the woes of a first time soccer mom. Next time we bring the bug spray.


September 17, 2005

Historical Societies

For the past year we have been memebers of the Minnesota Historical Society. I was not sure it was worth it and was second guessing our membership, until recently. The Twin Cities has a great historical society with many great locations and lessons. There are many museums and historical sites to visit and get involved. They are hands on and very interactive and they bring history alive. They get kids involved and excited. My kids love them.

We have visited a fort, learned blacksmithing, fur trading, playing games of the 1800's, worked on a farm, helped build dams, sort logs and learn about milling flour. We have seen petroglyphs and made ancient weaponds, we have sat in one room schoolrooms and learned about medicine through the years, we've been in grain elevators and flour frieght elevators, thresed wheat, pickled, gardened, tended animals, we've sat in a rocketship and experienced a simulated tornado. To name just a few of the things we have done this year. We have learned so much and had so much fun it doesn't feel like learning. We have learned how much fun it is to do these things together and have an appreciation both for the lives of those who have gone before us and a thankfullness for our own lives.

The kids asked me to renew the membership and explained all their favorite things we have done and I believe we will. If you have a historical society nearby - research it and see what they offer. It may very well be worth joining. One last note, remember we have young children currently 6,4 and 2 but for most of this year 5,3 and 1 and we had a blast with it. Sometimes people may be surprised you have young kids there and truthfully there are some things they can't do but they can do more than you think they can and they enjoy it much more than you would expect.

Our kids do not see museums as dry or boring places. They are always excited and feel like we are going on an adventure. I am thankful that the historical society is as good as it is here and hope you can find something near you.


September 16, 2005

Oliver Kelly Farm

We went on a field trip to the Oliver Kelly Farm, a historic site of a real working farm. This is one of my kids favorite places to go on a field trip. Rhiannon was all decked out in her beautiful handmade Little House on the Prairie style dress. Made by a loving friend who took a lot of time and care in making it, it is beautiful! She was wearing a blue short sleeve prairie dress complete with apron and bonnet.

During the long drive there we listened to the audio tape of Little House on the Prairie. Once at the farm we started by looking through the tall grasses for the frogs we heard, sadly we did not find any. Then we headed out to the farm where we began work and hands on help. First the kids chopped wood with an ax. Serona was surprised I let them but they had help and it was well supervised each of them worked on a piece of oak until they were able to split it. Sirah was very upset that she could not participate!

Then we headed over the the animals. They were able to feed and pet horses, sheep, lambs, and piglets. They were especially excited that they got to feed the horse its oats. After we spent awhile with each of the animals we headed over to the wheat threshing machine. The horse began walking, they feed the stalks into the machine and then the little pieces of wheat came out from a long chute that they placed buckets under and the straw came out the other end.

For well over a half hour the three kids just worked on this. First Ciaran and Rhiannon were taking turns but Sirah really wanted to get involved with it. So Rhia moved over to help stack the straw with a pitchfork while Ciaran and Sirah took turns very patiently catching the seed and emptying their pots into a big canvas bag. The bag stood to my chest level from the ground and between the three of them they filled two bags! Meanwhile Rhiannon was working hard stacking the straw. They even let her climb up on the big stacks and help stomp them down. Then they switched and Rhia and Sirah worked on the wheat while Ciaran stacked the straw.

As I watched them I could hardly believe how content they were. I thought about the fact that they could be watching a 30 minute cartoon or they could be doing this and how much happier they and I both were that this was what they were doing. They never once complained but on the way walking to the house Rhia did say "I would rather be a servant in the house than work all day in the hot sun chopping wood, wouldn't you ma?" It made me smile.

We were able to talk about the hard work, the constant work and the chores involved with farming. We talked about pioneer days and we even talked about Monet as we looked out on the fields at the giant haystacks. This trip really helps bring history alive in fun and enjoyable ways.

In the house we set to help in the kitchen. The first thing of course was to bring in the water. So they carried the pail out to the well and then had to nearly junmp and hang on the well to make the water come out it was so hard. I stood back and watched and let them do it even though of course I wanted to help so it wouldn't be so hard. I made them stop at a half pail knowing how heavy it would be. They worked together to carry the pail and it was a strain and struggle for them but they were determined. The managed all the way to the house, I carried it up the stairs and then they brought it to the kitchen again.

Then Ciaran and Sirah brought in some firewood from the woodpile. Rhia meanwhile began stuffing mango's and sewing them for pickling! I never knew they stuffed and sewed things they pickled. I had never seen anyone sew a vegetable before. The "mango" is really a squash grown at the time that they called mangos. The stuffing resembled something like sauerkraut. Then they learned about pickling, the hows and the whys. They ended with a taste test. I tried too, I am thankful for refrigeration! What a taste they must have had to get used to since they pickled so much. Ciaran actually liked the cucumber pickles, Rhia and Sirah the grapes and I liked the pickled onions. They also had a taste of tiny grapes and some small yellow tomatoes.

Sirah was done so we headed back to the car after purchasing a peppermint stick and talking about how Laura and Mary would only get this in their Christmas stockings and on their birthdays and how special it was at the time. This candy was special to my kids as well as we really don't let them have candy all that often and compared to many of their friends they feel like they already are like Laura and Mary - which they are not!

Sirah feel asleep before we were out the driveway and the other two wanted to listen to the tape again, so we did the whole way home - which was longer because it was rush hour! A fabulous trip though. Highly recommended. If you live in the Twin Cities try it. If not try to find historic sites and working farms near you.


September 15, 2005

Meeting Dad for lunch

Serona's work schedule has included some long hours lately. To keep the kids spirits up we do sifferent things to stay connected. Today we met at his office for lunch. We had lunch in the on site lunchroom and then took a short walk outside. On our walk the kids looked at nature and picked up caterpillars, worms and even a slug. They picked flowers and we all chatted and enjoyed a brief simple hour during the chaos of a busy day. It helps everyone involved as we enjoyed our whole family together right in the middle of the day.


September 14, 2005

Biking to the Library

Today for our afternoon activity we took a bike ride to our library. We left with a bag full of books to return and I was hopeful my way home would be lighter - I was of course incorrect and somehow the book magically filled itself with more heavier books for the ride home!

The blessing is I now only have one child in the trailer and Ciaran learned to ride his two wheeler and can go good distances on it without getting tired as long as we go at a slower speed. Sirah has no one to fight with in the trailer for space so it is a more peaceful and lighter trailer I pull. Though the books may be similar in weight to an additional child.

Rhiannon finished Staurt Little this week and made her reading sheet - she chose to draw and color Margalo and Stuart together. She chose the Trumpet of the Swan as her next big chapter book read for assigned reading. She of course still is reading a wide variety of other books in her free time.

We put together her nature notebook since the summer and it is neat to see the progress in her drawing. It will be nice to look at it at the end of the year and see the improvement and progression of her skills.

We've also set up the binders for all the subjects - they look so big and empty but I know they will fill up much sooner than I think.

Ciaran had a big acheivement today - he put together our big floor ABC puzzle - each letter in order all by himself! When he got stuck he used an ABC chart that was hanging on the wall and found the letter that matched. I was very proud of him as this is a bit of a stretch for him. His reward was a big sheet of froggy stickers.

All in all a good day.

I Spy an Advertisement

Today when grocery shopping we made a customer smile so she could not help but comment. We were in the cereal aisle, always a tough one for my kids not to bombard me with pleas and begs for the sugar cereal of their choice. Which they never get but hope springs eternal in kids and they don't stop trying.

So one day to beat this game I created a new one. We sat down and talked about advertisements. I had a serious discussion about ads and their power and the reasons for them with my then 5 and 3 year old. Then to bring the lesson home we created a game. I spy an advertisement!

Whenever the kids felt they really wanted something they had to say "I spy an advertisement" which in the cereal aisle gets shortened to "I see another ad" over and over again. Then I ask them if the ad made them want to buy the item. Sometimes they say yes and more often now they say no. We talk about what made them think they wanted that item. On cereal boxes it is most often the charachters on them.

This has proven to be a great game and a powerful lesson for our kids. Instead of thinking they want everything that looks cool now they have the power themselves to examine what drew their attention. Yes at 6 and 4 my kids are often savvy enough to realize that the picture on the box has nothing to do with what is inside. They realize they like the picture not the cereal. They have power to express their real desire and not the impulse that the cereal company wants them to.

This is a silly game but it is also quite serious. It is fun for them but they have also learned a lot from it. They have an outlet for expressing their desire and they are learning that things are not always what they seem. I still remember the first time they realized the cereal they picked did not actually have berries inside the box, they were so disappointed.

Now this is not fail proof - my kids still ask for stuff just because and they still sometimes say yes they want something even though it is just an ad. But honestly overall this has decreased and now we have so much fun going through the store pointing out the ads that they feel less of a need to ask for as much. For some reason this has curbed their need to ask for everything. It has given them a power of some sort and it has taught them many lessons.

In a society where media and ad companies strive to get your children's attention and loyalty to their brand it is important to prepare and equip your children to deal with it. Simple games like our advertisement game do the trick.

Back to my original story - a woman in the cereal aisle heard Ciaran, age 4 say I see an advertisement. She looked up at me and smiled, then each of them pointed to another one and said it at the same time. I asked if the ad made them want to buy it to which both replied no and she looked at me expectantly. I very briefly explained it was a game we played to help them understand and not ask for everything. She said it was just amazing to hear him say that. She smiled at me several times later in the store and I thought - maybe we will win over another parent to wisen and protect her children from the advertisements that want so to affect and in some ways control them or atleast mommy and daddy's purse strings.

Try your own version of I see an advertisement the next time you go shopping and always be willing to have honest coversations with your children about the reasons for your choices and the affects outside influences try to have on our lives. Share how you have struggled with and overcome those issues and prepare your children with the tools they need to face these issues head on when they must deal with them alone.


September 13, 2005

Mill City Museum

We spent the day at the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis. I must admit I was a bit hesitant to believe that a museum could make the proccess of milling flour interesting. I was wrong - it was great. It might be one of my kids favorite museums and they enjoy museums as a whole.

There were several good hands on exhibits. The kids favorite of course was the water room. Here the kids can try to build and create dams to make the wheels spin and see the effects of building up water and then releasing it. They can try to guide logs down along the river to get where they need to go. They try to build a bridge and put the buildings of the area in their right order. It was a fun room, it was a messy room. Sirah was completely soaked when we were done but they had great fun.

It was wonderful again to go the first two weeks of school as it was very empty. The kids and I kept to our own schedule, took our time at exhibits and went back to our favorites again and again. The musuem also offers a freight elevator tour that is interesting and the kids enjoyed. You ride in a freight elevator with a guide who tells some of the history and you see short videos and equipement used. It was fun and Rhiannon's favorite part of the day. You end the tour with an amzing view of the falls and the stone arch bridge and the area. We finished the day with a visit to the baking room for some fresh bread and a walk through the burned courtyard.

If you are in the Twin Cities I recommend it. For us the cost is perfect as we are historical society members - so it was just 1.00 to feed the meters. Plus the additional money we choose to spend feeding the meters up and down the street we parked on. The kids thought it was fun and it was a lesson in random acts of kindness, a trait I am always happy to pass on to my children. Feed parking meters, pay tolls or admission for the car behind you and little things like that for no reason other than to be kind and share the blessings God has given you.


September 12, 2005

Way to Start the Year!

We recently attended a kickoff picnic for our new homeschool support group. There were over 130 people there! 130 people committed to and involved with homeschooling - fabulous!

It was a great day, there was good food (yay they even had portobella mushrooms for us), great games and many new and fun people to meet. The kids jumped right in and got involved with the games the kids were playing.

One of their favorite activites was a water bottle rocket launch. You fill a 2 liter halfway and hook it to the end of a pump of some sort, one person holds it down so the pressure builds and then it shoots into the sky and acros the field - a big hit! This was probably Ciaran's favorite part of the day. There was also a really cool ball jumping game set up where the kids jumped onto a fan of sorts which was attached to a big PVC pipe that was filled with nerf water balls which flew into the air and the kids had to catch them, another big hit.

There were large field games going on like steal the flag and a version of shark tag I think. There were sack races and little games and races for the kids. A big game of kickball and a playground.

There were three things that really stick with me about the day. First, was the way the fathers interacted with all the kids. They were running the games and more importantly playing the games alongside the kids. It was genuine and it was real and it was great to see the way these men cared not only for their own kids but for all the others including my own.

The second thing was the fact that there were so many of us there. So many in the same boat. Some with infants and some with college students. Some who have been homeschooling for years and others just starting out. There were so many kids and parents and even a few grandparents. Everyone was getting along and just accepting each other. It was a wonderful day.

The thing that stands out the most for me was the community of Christians we found ourselves in. The most touching and memorable moment was the prayer and blessing time we had. All the kids sat in a big group on the grass and the parents all formed a big circle around them and we prayed. People took turns praying as they felt led. We prayed for the kids, for the school year, for the moms, for the dads, for our homes, for our safety, for siblings to help out, for the freedom to homeschool and for all the blessings we have. We prayed for God's hand of protection over our kids and our whole group this school year. It was awesome and it was powerful and it made me know that we are in the right place at the right time for our family and our homeschooling journey.

May you be blessed this school year and may you have a fun and productive time.


September 11, 2005

Never Forget

The heroes, the bravery, the victims, the pain, the unified country, the solid leadership, the attackers and what it is all about. Never forget:

September 8, 2005

MN Zoo

We had a great day at the zoo today. Another good day to be out and about. While the zoo was more crowded than the history museum (as more preschoolers are interested in the zoo) it was still rather empty. We had our own monorail car - the first time we have done that at this zoo, the kids were estatic. We played in the kids classroom alone for about 45 minutes before another child even came in. We moved around with ease and never felt rushed. The dolphin show was empty but still as good as ever. The weather was great, though we ended up staying indoors for much of the time.

This time each child got to pick one thing to do. Rhiannon picked the monorail as we have never gone on it. Ciaran of course picked seeing all four frogs, are you surprised? Little Sirah picked seeing the owls. Of course by the time we got to the owls she was struggling to stay awake to even see them, shortly after she fell asleep in the stroller and when we moved her at all she said rather grumpily "Sleep!" so we just let her sleep and enjoyed the rest of the zoo.

Again the kids did not want to leave and I had to pull us out just in time to stay ahead of rush hour traffic. We did catch some of it but we were ahead of the majority of it. Another good day that makes me glad we delay the start of school. Hope you are enjoying this first week of September whatever you are doing.


Rare Jewel Review

I received a year long subscription to Rare Jewel Magazine through Blog for Books. They have sent me three issues of the magazine to review thus far.

Overall I do not enjoy nor do I recommend this magazine. When I first heard of the magazine I was very excited to be reviewing it. I thought it would be a good read, informative and helpful to Christians in our modern day culture. As a solid Christian, a scholar, and a person with deep interest in citizen involvement in politics I felt it would be good reading for me. I was interested to see their take on cultural issues and their recommendation for getting Christians more involved.

After reading two issues of the magazine and having a very hard time even getting into the third issue I am pretty sure the agenda of this magazine and I do not mesh. The magazine has a clear agenda and it is not just to provide information to people seeking it. RJM intends to motivate people to read and take action. I am all in support of that as well. Being informed and active citizens is essential to our government and Christians do need to step up and take on more of this role. However, the approach of RJM is essentially a radical rejection of our current modern day culture and a movement to get back to the original roots of the nation. This is something I can not support and it is therefore difficult to read the articles in the magazine without seeing the agenda behind them.

Before I continue I need to outline a bit about my background. I have a Masters degree in Rhetoric and Communication, a solid background in Argumentation and Debate, and have researched, written on and taught on subjects such as apologetics, postmodernism, and feminism from a biblical perspective. Issues of Christians living in our modern day culture and being in the world but not of the world are very important to me and an integral part of how I live my day to day life. I start with the Word of God as my foundation (in a very literal way) and look to how it applies to these issues and how we as Christians are to respond. In many ways my goals and approach are much like those of the writers and editors at RJM. With one critical difference in my mind - the approach recommended and the tone used.

Before you go further I urge you to read the Declaration of Dependence that was written by and actively promoted by the staff of RJM. This is a document that began as an article in the March/April issue of the Rare Jewel Magazine and then has become much more. From the RJM website:

"The DoD is a document drafted by Rare Jewel Magazine to enlist citizens in a born-again American Revolution -- a national campaign that is distinctively united and committed to America's restoration.

The DoD provides citizen patriots with a document of common agreement for meditation, encouragement, and action -- a tool that will unite voices into a single, clear message and unified front. With unity and clarity of purpose and direction citizens are encouraged to multiply their strength and achieve success in the battle to redeem the culture and reform the government.

'All citizens are invited to read and sign the Declaration of Dependence,' said Rare Jewel Media founder and president Tim Ewing. 'Share it... urge neighbors and leaders to sign it... use it as a standard to measure candidates for public office, community leaders and elected officials, authorities in churches and schools... and make it your meditation, thereby engaging in this new Revolutionary War for the soul of our nation and its citizens.'

This is not just a passing article of the magazine; this is on the front page of their website, being actively promoted in the follow-up issues of their magazines and in their press releases. This is the agenda and goal of RJM - to "Restore America" through “a tool that will unite voices into a single, clear message and unified front." - the Declaration of Dependence.

It is not even that I disagree with all the statements in the Declaration, there are some I completely agree with. Yet this is not the Word of God, this is not the basis for a unified front I want to see Christians take. The only unified front we truly have and need to have as Christians is the cross. Bottom line, it all comes back to Christ and it all comes back to his sacrifice for us and our relationship with Him. To put so much emphasis on creating Declarations and promoting a unified front against a cultural assault is not what we as Christians are called to do. This document meant to unify can and I believe will divide more than unify. There are many things in there that are simply not limiting themselves to the Word of God and the call we as Christians have. It is a time bound document, one meant to deal one by one with cultural issues such as abortion, sanctity of marriage, evolution and cloning. Is this a way to encourage Christians to get involved politically, yes. Is it the only way, no. Is it the best way, no.

To truly make change in our culture we need to continue to embrace and speak of the cross. We need to be bold Christians, yes. We need to follow Christ's example in our words, deeds, and our voting habits. We need to be involved politically and support candidates that share our values. We need to confront political issues that fly in the face of our beliefs and what we know to be the truth yes. But we need to be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves. We need to embrace and love those with different opinions and beliefs. We need to work within the system and not alienate those who can and want to help us.

This review may seem to have become more of a review of the Declaration of Dependence than of the magazine in itself. I would concede that point but emphasize the fact that all the articles of the magazine can be read through this filter. To me it seems that RJM is not hiding their agenda as many other magazines and forms of media do. They want to inform and motivate change and they have a tool by which they mean to do so.

Being a communications scholar I have tried several times to just read each article in the magazines for the value of themselves. Yet I also can not remove the context of the whole magazine from each piece. There have been several articles I have enjoyed to be sure. There has been some information put forward that I did not know. Yet personally I feel unable to take anything said in this magazine at face and would follow-up with research to discover if there are biases present in the information put forward. RJM has not won my trust as a reliable source of information. A fresh source of information and perspective not being reported, yes they are that.

Some people may love this magazine. It is written in short article and interview style, it is colorful and easy to read. Each issue is designed to take on a single issue and dig deeper into it from a variety of perspectives. The three issues I reviewed so far dealt with the sanctity of life, creation versus evolution, and Christophobia in our culture.

RJM does offer a risk-free cancel at anytime subscription and you can order individual back issues to examine. I am not saying I recommend that but if you are interested in the magazine I would encourage you to try that first before purchasing a subscription. You can also learn more about the magazine at Rare Jewel Magazine.


September 6, 2005

Back to School

Today was back to school day for most of the kids in the Twin Cities neighborhood. Praise God it was not for us. We spent the day at the MN history museum. It could not have been any better than it was. There was no one there. We had all the exhibits to ourselves and no lines, no waits and no one else to interfere with us.

The kids and I had a great time. They ran around and climbed inside a grain elevator, experienced a simulated rocket take-off (not intense), hid underground for a simulated tornado (intense and seemingly life like) and many other fun things. They tried to be as strong as a horse, with all four of us pushing we were finally able to do it. We looked at and touched many things and learned and played and just experienced history and inventions. The kids did not want to leave and I finally dragged them out at 3:30 to try to beat rush hour traffic. They asked when we could go back.

While we were there Rhiannon drew a picture for one of the museum workers and the kids managed to endear themselves to all the people they saw, probably since we were the only kids there. We built a log cabin together, climbed through tunnels and made wind blow. There were many neat things and it was all so much more fun because there were no lines and no competition for any exhibits.

I highly recommend visiting museums, history sites, zoos and all those other places that have been too crowded lately. You may very likely find them deserted as we did. It is too soon for field trips but most everyone is in school. A great time to get in some of those field trips before you are competing with large group field trips! We will be visiting some of the other sites we haven't been to in awhile as well over the next two weeks.

As some of these sites are quite a drive for us - we are working our way (again) through the Little House on the Prairie book on tape series. We are halfway through Little House in Big Woods just today! Rhiannon also keeps her copy of a Child's Garden of Verses and Aesop's Fables in the car so she can read to us. The deal is she reads one poem (with feeling and emphasis) and one fable and discusses the moral before the book on tape goes on. We are working through our Ambleside without her even being aware of it, even though we are not technically starting until next week.

When we came home tonight I taught Rhiannon to play chess (no I didn't let her win) while Ciaran and Sirah played on the Starfall website. They really enjoyed the ABC section, which is well done. Ciaran especially enjoyed singing the songs for the short vowel sounds.

I was smart enough to get a soup in the crockpot and a loaf of bread (frozen) rising before we left and we came home to dinner almost completed! I made butternut squash for a treat (with sugar and butter) and we enjoyed a homemade meal with little effort. We were even able to get outside and see the neighbors for a bit tonight.

I must admit I am so thankful and I cherish the fact that Rhiannon did not get on a school bus today at 8am and return after 3:30 pm. Those hours were spent together as a family learning and having fun and just enjoying each other and learning about our history - praise God for the freedom, ability and blessing of homeschooling.


September 5, 2005

Reading Updates

Well I gave up in the summer keeping track of our reading. Especially Rhiannon's as she burned through everything she could. She read all of the books in the American Girl series of Samantha, Kirsten, and Felicity. She read many books in the Pony Pals and Magic Tree House Series and nearly all the Great Illustrated Classics we had available. About 25 I think. I will begin keeping track again of her reading when we officially start school in a few weeks but I've just given her free reign to read and reread as she wished this summer.

Ciaran also is starting to show interest in reading. We actually began working on the Bob books with him this week. He still needs to work on letter and sound recognition but since he was showing interest we went with it.

Sirah will pick up a book as a first choice of toys now. She will go over to the bookshelf when the others are watching a movie or playing a game she is not interested in and sit and "read" her books. She brings them over often to read and is always very excited during our reading times to pick out her own books.

We have begun regular reading times again. Atleast three times a day. In the morning, at lunch and at bedtime they each get to pick one book - sometimes two and I pick one - so at each sitting we are reading atleast 4 and often 8 books at a time. These are typically storybooks and Sirah's are always shorter and Rhiannon's are always longer and sometimes we read a chapter from a chapter book in place of a storybook.

This is one of my absolute favorite things to do with my kids is to read aloud to them. Even now when Rhia can read whatever she wants whenever she wants (parent approved of course) she still craves read aloud time and so do I. It was so wonderful to share with her for the first time the real writings of AA Milne and recall reading them as a child or reading Anne of Green Gables, Cs Lewis or Little House is such a treasure to me.

I love this part of the school year that we spend so much time reading together. Of course we pick a schooling style that encourages lots of read aloud and family time since that fits us so well. Enjoy our reading lists as the year begins again.


September 4, 2005

Help House Homeschoolers

Please pass this along to anyone who may be interested:

If your family would be interested in providing temporary housing to another
homeschooling family displaced by Hurricane Katrina, HSLDA is willing to
match your family with a family who needs a place to stay.

To make an offer of housing, please provide us with the basic information
requested below to _hurricanerelief@hslda.org_

Please be assured that we will keep your contact information confidential.
When we learn of a family that needs help, we will contact you with their
contact information (phone number or email address) and you can contact the
family to determine if they are the right match for your family.

City, State, Zip:
Phone #:

Limitations: (e.g., two months max, only want boys, teenagers only, can take
up to 4 people)

Provide transportation to your home: (e.g., bus tickets, frequent flyer
miles, will pick up)

Any special facilities: (e.g., handicapped access, room for pets)

Other offers of help: (e.g., can provide job, have curriculum for 3rd
grader, car available)

Thank you for being a part of the extended homeschooling family.
Please join us in continuing to pray for these hurting familes.


J. Michael Smith

September 2, 2005

Victims or Refugees

I recently wrote a piece over at Cyber::Ecology on the subject of media coverage of Hurricane Katrina. I came to some interesting conclusions about how the national news media is portraying the victims of this tragedy as refugees. This term is used over and over again and it is disturbing and needs to stop.

Take the first step to supporting and love your country and its fellow American citizens who are in crisis right now by reading my piece on the victims of Hurricane Katerina, not the "refugees" from this tragedy. Before you dismiss it as mere symantics read the post and judge for yourself.


Prep Work for the Year

We don't start school for another few weeks as I cherish these early weeks of September. The weather is perfect, the public and private school kids are all back in classes and the museums, zoos, art museums and other fun places to visit are empty. There are no field trips to worry about and we can enjoy things at our leisure and without crowds. We watch the school bus leave in the morning in our pj's. We curl on the couch and read some books and we spend the days outside riding bikes, enjoying play grounds and doing field trips just by ourselves as a family.

During this time of the year I also try to finish odds and ends and get some prep work done. Today while the kids played outside I worked on coloring some file folder games. When I could use my laptop I also worked on some excel spreadsheets and some firefox bookmark tabs to help keep me organized.

I have found these two tools to be very powerful in homeschooling. I use firefox to organize online resources. For example this year we will be trying out Ambleside Online - a free Charlotte Mason curriculum with many free online sources. I went through and made a set of bookmark tabs for each weeks reading for the first few weeks. Then at the beginning of each week I just need to open this tab and all our reading will be there. Then I can put these grouped tabs into a folder and save it for when the other kids are old enough to use it. You can make organized groups of tabs for any subject you are studying.

I use excel to make spreadsheets to keep track of our daily work, our reading and our curriculum. I keep track on one of the amount of time we spend on each subject each day during the week and another page in that same spreadsheet keeps track of what we did for each subject. So I have both a detailed and an overview of the work we did in the same place. This serves as both a guide for what I need to do each day/week/month and a record of what we have already accomplished. It is easy to use and I can keep all my records in one place.

For example my main schoolwork spreadsheet has several sheets (or tabs if you want to think of them that way) one for each child which keeps track of their time on each subject and the content for each subject. Then I have one that is specific to the reading checklist for Ambleside and a reading list. I also have one set aside for me for any notes I wish to make. Lastly I have a year goal sheet to check off as the task is accomplished (ie learn life cycle of plant, multiplication, state capitals, etc).

This has been an easy way for me to organize and keep track of our goals, accomplished tasks both for the daily and the yearly. So as others head off to school I take this time to prep and let my kids enjoy these last days of summer and beginning of fall.


Disaster Advice

I received this via a homeschool list and thought it was worth posting. Hope it helps someone.

No. 33, September 1, 2005
Special Edition

Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina
I've been asked how to best help the folks reeling from the aftermath
of hurricane Katrina. I'm departing from this week's Freedom Letter to
render what advice I can offer for those eager to help with
assistance. The following is only my personal opinion from my
experience after hurricane Charley and it is not any type of
professional, legal, or financial advice.

Phase I
The recovery from hurricane Katrina is in phase one. It is the stage
when you are numb from being smacked by a hurricane. Every modern
convenience has been taken from you. All community services
(hospitals, sanitation, water, electricity, fire protection, phone,
etc) are gone. Right now the need is getting emergency water and food
to the victims.

During phase I after hurricane Charley, the President of the United
States was giving out water and ice just a couple of miles from my
home. The entire nation was focused on helping us. Our local parish
had so many items trucked in from other parishes and from Catholic
Charities that they had a hard time distributing all the emergency

Although people are literally dying of thirst as I write, within 48 to
72 hours they are going to be inundated with water and emergency food
supplies. What these people need is on the way already. My suggestion
(and this is only my suggestion) is that you concentrate your support
on phase II of recovery.

Emergency Phase I Repairs
For the homes that were temporarily flooded and no longer have water
in them, the best practical assistance is helping to get all the wet
building materials out of the house this weekend.

You wouldn't believe the disgusting molds that can grow on wet drywall
and insulation in humid climates like the areas hit by hurricane

The best practical Phase I help we received was getting our roof
temporarily repaired and getting the wet ceilings, walls, and
insulation out of the house. The weekend after hurricane Charley my
contractor friend, Thom Jordan in Tallahassee, gathered his crew and
drove hours to Port Charlotte to remove wet ceilings, walls, and
insulation from our home. It is imperative to get everything wet out
of the house ASAP. If you know of a family with a wet, but not still
flooded home, then either hire a contractor to go there and remove the
wet building materials, or gather some friends and drive there and do
it for the family you know.

Phase II
Phase II begins after the initial emergency period. It is when the
realization of what happened starts to sink in along with the
awareness that it is going to take a very long time for things to

At this stage, families start making their recovery plan. I could tell
phase II began here in Port Charlotte when I heard lots of families
cussing at each other while shopping in a re-opened Wal-Mart. The
shock is wearing off and the stress really begins.

I am going to be very blunt with my advice. From the news reports I've
seen, I would advise most families in the worst disaster areas to
relocate, not rebuild. It is extremely difficult to rebuild after such
widespread devastation. I've had workers in my home this week and
hurricane Charley was over a year ago. There are homes and businesses
that haven't even begun to rebuild here and Katrina's damage is much
more severe. My advice is simple: get out, unless you have a
compelling reason to stay and rebuild.

Therefore, my advice to those of you wishing to assist those hit by
hurricane Katrina is to focus your giving on helping families to
relocate. This would involve:
U-haul rental, if there is anything left to move
Transportation to the new location
Used automobile (if auto has been destroyed)
First and last month's rent on a furnished apartment, house, or condo
First month's utilities and utility deposit
Food money for at least a month
A few sets of clothing for the family and some toys for the kids
Tools needed for a new job
Helping the breadwinners to locate a new job ASAP

I don't know of any organization focusing something like the above,
but you can start this type of assistance immediately by getting
friends, family, and your parish to sponsor a relocating family. Just
find someone who knows a family that wants to relocate and help them.
This plan is not perpetual welfare, but a simple, short-term plan to
get a family back on its feet.

The poor who were dependent upon the federal government for assistance
before the hurricane, are probably going to have to depend upon the
same after the hurricane. What happened here is that FEMA set up a
mobile-home mini-city for those who could not find or afford temporary
housing. The look of the FEMA city is a bit haunting with no colors,
no landscaping, just rows and rows of mobile homes. Yet at least they
are clean, dry, and livable facilities for poor families.

The Nightmare of Dealing with Insurance Companies
During phase II, many families will discover that their insurance
companies are rotten scoundrels. (Remember, this is my personal
opinion.) They will be late in paying and will estimate way below
repair or replacement cost. Dealing with Liberty Mutual in the months
following hurricane Charley was my biggest nightmare. If I received
only what they initially offered me to repair my home, we couldn't
have afforded to fix it. We would have lost our home. They were very
late in paying for repairs and we had to sell assets to pay
installments on repairs. For the five months before we moved out of
our rental home in July, Liberty Mutual didn't give us a cent for
temporary housing. The rent check finally arrived after we had already
moved back in our home.

There were a few insurance companies in our community that were fair
and timely with meeting their obligations, but they were in a

The single best thing I did after hurricane Charley was to hire
independent insurance adjusters that did battle with our insurance
company for us. I emphasize that you need honest adjusters. The first
set of adjusters we hired were unlicensed. They were arrested at
gunpoint by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The second adjuster we hired, Ron Delo with Insurance Claims
Consultants, was an angel sent from heaven. I can't begin to describe
his help in getting a fair adjustment from our insurance company. I
just called Ron before writing this letter and he is heading to
Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. If you are interested in what he
offers, call 800-572-7914. If you really need to reach Ron in an
emergency situation, call him on his satellite phone at (254)

I am not making any type of formal, legal, or financial recommendation
for Ron. I am just telling you how he was an incredible help to our
family and to the Family Life Center in our recovery from Charley. Ron
is the type of person I would recommend to a family member that had
been slammed by another hurricane.

If the family you know is planning to rebuild, or if they want to move
on and relocate, they will probably come out way ahead with their
insurance company if they use a licensed and reputable insurance
adjuster. Help them find one.

I apologize for the length of this letter, but I felt that the
seriousness of the situation following hurricane Katrina demanded that
I offer what little advice I could.

Yours in His Majesty's Service,

Steve Wood

P.S. If you are sending a care package to a family, include a few cans
of stuff to fix flat tires. Flats have been a major headache all year
long following hurricane Charley. They are a super headache when there
aren't any tire repair shops open.

Copyright © 2005, Family Life Center International Inc.

September 1, 2005

Hurricane Relief

Home School Foundation Hurricane Response

In response to the devastation caused by hurricane Katrina, the Home School Foundation has established a Hurricane Emergency Response program to help homeschooling families who have suffered great losses.

We will use contributions to this program to assist families with replacing lost or destroyed curriculum and meeting emergency needs.

If you know of homeschooling families who need our assistance, please have them call us at 540-338-8899 or email

If you would like to make a gift to help these families, you may donate online here.

There are many other great programs that provide more general assistance as well. Even local TV stations are filling trucks of relief items such as water, diapers, hand sanitizers and batteries and bringing them down.

Today the kids and I, along with another family went to the store and bought some supplies and drove them to a local television station where there were volunteers collecting them and loading them onto a truck. As soon as a truck fills they leave again and load another truck. Simple but real way the kids can help you. It is a tangiable lesson for them to experiences.

We talked about what we might need and then bought some of those items to send to another family in need. I think it brought things home more for them. Find an organization and help support however you can.

You can also donate through the blogosphere and see how much has been raised so far through blogging for hurricane relief at The Truth Laid Bear. As of 3pm CST the total contributions so far was at $ 50,402!

Please donate your time, money, and supplies to those in need.


Updated total: $ 405,748 in contributions so far

Geography Resources

Here is a list of geography resources I received from a homeschool list I am on. I have used some of these but not all - it seems like a great list of resources though so I thought I would share!

-- World atlas, maps you can print. -- National Atlas, lots of different kinds of maps to print. -- Lots of high-quality outline maps to print.
-- Very basic outline maps to print.
-- Outline maps to print. -- Outline maps to print of the states. -- Lots of in-depth mapping information. -- How Far Is It, a great way to see how far another place is from where you are. -- Links to many outline maps. -- Full color physical and political maps. -- State and county facts. -- There is SO much information on this website, as well as maps to print. -- Lists of books that take place in each state. A great way for kids to relate to the states they are learning about. -- Lots of great geography resources and information here -- always changing, very interactive. Make sure to check out The Sense of Place, where people have recorded the sounds of their communities (we sure live in a noisy world)! Plan to spend hours on this site! -- Lots of information about all the countries of the world, including maps. Great resource. -- Sign up to receive postcards from all over, delivered to your email. We had been getting these postcards, but haven't gotten one in quite a while now. Not sure if this service is still working or not, but the archives are still there. There are a lot of great pictures of all over to explore.
-- State unit studies links. Printable maps, facts, and information on each state. -- Get satellite images from any place in the world! This is a free service, but you can subscribe to get images with closer resolution. (Great way to see your own backyard from outerspace)!

Google maps

Google Earth - a very cool service!!! Satellite images and facts about the places you want to visit. This website is definitely worth a visit and download!

Old Schoolhouse Magazine Review

I have received a yearlong subscription to the Old Schoolhouse magazine in exchange for reviewing it here. The first issue came a few weeks ago. I flipped through the articles but felt they mostly needed time to get into them. As you know time is a luxury for many of us - I finally got through reading a good portion of the magazine.

Overall first impressions are positive - it is a large informational magazine with even interesting advertisements. It is colorful, with a good layout and large amounts of information packed in. This issue dealt with topics such as homeschooling internationally and its challenges, homeschooling the special needs child and homeschool blogging.

Of course I was particularly interested in the homeschool blogging articles. It was well written - though there is so much in the homeschool blogosphere it is impossible to cover it all or do it justice - atleast attention was drawn to it. Though I do feel they overemphasized Homeschool Blogger and the blogs linked to it, which is directly affiliated with The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.

I was impressed with the artwork and writings of Akiane, a 10 year old true prodigy. The article drew my attention to her work and her website is interesting. Check out her artwork, one of my favorite pieces of hers is:

The Old Schoolhouse magazine provides a lot of information in a single issue. The downside is some of the articles are not quick reads which means it takes longer to read. The upside to that is you have a lot of interesting reads waiting for your attention when you can get to them!

This was a special edition for international and special needs homeschooling so I am not able to judge or compare it to others yet - but it was a good issue in itself.