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

Private Showing to Chronicles of Narnia

We just recently put together a group to go see the upcoming Chronicles of Narnia show. If you have a decent size group I recommend you try calling around to local theaters to see if you can do the same. Wouldn't it be nice to see the new film surronded by your family and friends and no one else?

We tried a variety of theaters and in the end choose a smaller neighborhood theater that was not part of a big chain. They were very willing to work with us. We only needed to guareentee 20 seats at the matinee price and then we could go up to the theater capacity. We have a theater to ourselves at off business hours so we avoid the lines, the choas and it is just us!

I called and asked to speak to managers and inquired about a school or group rate. I asked what their policies were for offering a theater to ourselves. Most of what I heard was either you purchase out the entire theater (around 200 tickets per theater) or you rent a theater on off business hours with a certain minimum (most minimums were around 50-100). If they wanted me to call a corporate office that was usually the kiss of death and unless you have a large group (250 or more) I would not bother. Try working with a smaller theater.

I am very excited for our private showing of The Chronicles of Narnia and we will know all the people in the theater and the kids get to be with their friends. It does not get much better than that. Many people think you can not arrange such a thing for new releases but with a little patience and determination you usually can.
If interested find a smaller theater nearby and call the manager and ask - you never know they just might say yes!


Updated Side Bars

I just finished updating my side navigation bars. Be sure to check out the latest lesson plans (left bar), reading lists (right bar), field trip ideas(right bar), best shots (left bar) and other resources available.


November 28, 2005

Homeschooling or Public School at Home Pt. II

Please read my first post on this subject.

The distinction becomes clearer and clearer to me and the following Q and A I had via email with the office manager of the Minnesota Virtual Academy should make it clear to others. I sent the following questions and received these answers, I have posted it verbatim (emphasis in bold is mine)

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. What are my financial responsibilities as a parent?

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. We would supply the curriculum and a computer for you to use for as long as you are in the Academy. Upon withdraw, we would pick the computer up and you would be send labels to send the curriculum back to K12.

2. Are students required to take all the same tests as their public school counterparts? Any additional exams?

Since we are a public school, your child would be required to take any state testing that is required for a public school. For us, it would be the MCA's (Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments) and the NWEA's (Northwestern Educational Assessments).

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. This would mean that if the child would want to enroll with us and still take classes (band, music) at the resident district they would not be able to since they are 100% enrolled with us.

The legal distinction is clear - even the MNVA agrees. Keeping the legal distinction is important. Remember to keep the focus on protecting your rights to homeschool outside of the school district instead of on the negatives of charter schools.

Charter schools such as the MNVA have many benefits. They just need to remain classified in the public school system not as homeschoolers. Remember it is a question of authority not a question of curriculum choice.


Homeschooling Blogger Awards 2005

Well the Awards are official and nominations are open. Please visit Spunky Homeschool to see the nominees and nominate someone yourself.


November 25, 2005

Thank a Soldier

During this time of year as we think about all we are thankful for. Do we take time to think about the soldiers who sacrifice so much for us and many times put their lives on the line for our freedom and our lives? Irregardless of how you feel about the current war, the President of the United States or our military leadership, please take time to thank the soldiers who are there to protect us. They give up so much and receive little in return and never complain about it. The least we can do is give them some thanks.

Serona and I have been trying to demonstrate that thanks in real and tangible ways. One thing we are committed to doing is offering to purchase lunch, gas or other items for an individual in a military uniform. If I am in a restaurant and someone is on line behind me I will offer to purchase their lunch. If they are at the gas station with me I will offer to purchase their gasoline. I let them know it is my small way of saying Thank You for all you do and showing them some appreciation they deserve and often do not receive.

Imagine if our uniformed soldiers received this kind of treatment wherever they went? Imagine the appreciation they would feel. It is a small act of kindness we can perform that is well deserved. It is a small way we can bless someone who blesses us every day.

Sure I know gasoline prices are high. I know many of you are single income homeschoolers with a bunch of kids on a tight budget. Still we can find the money, we really can if we are committed to it. Realistically the opportunity will be rare, why let it pass by? Take the opportunity to bless someone today.

When I was in graduate school one of my professor's made a statement that has stuck with me through life. "When you die your checkbook and your calendar say a lot about your priorities and the type of person you are." How true this really is. What are we spending our money and our time on? How can we better spend it? I can scarcely think of a way better than saying thank you to someone who often is underappreciated, sometimes mistreated and putting his/her life on the line for my rights, freedom and life every day.

Now yes I am a "random act of kindness" kind of person. We do pay road tolls for whatever car happens to be in the lane behind us. We have on occasion sent cash anonymously to a family that we knew needed it. We try to just be kind in ways people don't expect to bless them in small ways. Yet this is different. This is an intentional act of kindness and a commitment to care for and bless people who bless us every day (whether we realize and acknowledge it or not). It is a private act between you and the individual you share it with.

This is such an easy and powerful thing that we as US Citizens can do. So make the commitment yourself and tell everyone you know to do the same. While you are at it, remember to participate in Red Friday and show your support for the troops by wearing red every Friday until they are all home.


Homeschooling or Public School At Home

There is much discussion these days of the significance of having a distinction between homeschooling and "public school at home" such as virtual ps charter schools. While this subject justifies and will receive a lengthier treatment from me right now I want to offer a point.

The summary of my perspective on the issue is that the difference is substantial and important. 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.

I have no direct problem with public school at home. For many this is a good option. However, it is not homeschooling and it should not be labeled as such. To allow this to happen is to allow a slow and subtle yet powerful erosion on the rights of home educators. The key difference is to remember who is in control. Who chooses curriculum, who is grading, who decides what is tested, who is funding it, who in short runs and controls it?

If I were to claim that I had a home owned business while I was telecommuting you can be assured I would be fired. I would not have a leg to stand on in a court of law. We need to be sure those rock solid distinctions stay in place for us as well. The simple analogy can go a long way to take the charge and emotionalism out of this debate. Keep it on target, keep it neutral and keep your eye on the important distinctions that need to be maintained. Remember this is not about us vs them or "real" homeschoolers versus "fake" homeschoolers. This is about protecting laws and rights of home educators while allowing others to take advantage of programs offered to them through their public school disctricts. We don't need to be against virtual academies and charter schools - rather we need to be proactive about protecting the legal distinctions that protect our rights as home educators.

Read my follow-up post and join in the online symposium.

Just my 02.

November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving Proclamation

President's Thanksgiving Day 2005 Proclamation
By the President of the United States of America
November 19, 2005

Thanksgiving Day is a time to remember our many blessings and to celebrate the opportunities that freedom affords. Explorers and settlers arriving in this land often gave thanks for the extraordinary plenty they found. And today, we remain grateful to live in a country of liberty and abundance. We give thanks for the love of family and friends, and we ask God to continue to watch over America.

This Thanksgiving, we pray and express thanks for the men and women who work to keep America safe and secure. Members of our Armed Forces, State and local law enforcement, and first responders embody our Nation's highest ideals of courage and devotion to duty. Our country is grateful for their service and for the support and sacrifice of their families. We ask God's special blessings on those who have lost loved ones in the line of duty.

We also remember those affected by the destruction of natural disasters. Their tremendous determination to recover their lives exemplifies the American spirit, and we are grateful for those across our Nation who answered the cries of their neighbors in need and provided them with food, shelter, and a helping hand. We ask for continued strength and perseverance as we work to rebuild these communities and return hope to our citizens.

We give thanks to live in a country where freedom reigns, justice prevails, and hope prospers. We recognize that America is a better place when we answer the universal call to love a neighbor and help those in need. May God bless and guide the United States of America as we move forward.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 24, 2005, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage all Americans to gather together in their homes and places of worship with family, friends, and loved ones to reinforce the ties that bind us and give thanks for the freedoms and many blessings we enjoy.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this eighteenth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand five, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirtieth.


November 23, 2005

Amazing Sirah

My dearest little Sirah, just over 2 years in age astonished me today. We were reciting bible verses when she said she wanted to do one. She said "first john 4:10 god loved us and sent His Son" - no joke!

We have been working with Ciaran on his memory verses and she just picked it up. The same way she has picked up counting and colors and is starting to recognize letters. She is a bit too much at times. Very cute and very fun but sometimes completely astounding.


Shop for Homeschooling

We all shop sometime in the next month, whether we love it or not. Why not take a moment to start your online shopping in a way that helps out fellow homeschoolers. By starting your shopping here you can help benefit homeschoolers in need. The Home School Foundation uses this money to help widows, families with special needs children, and other homeschoolers in difficult financial situations.

So won't you take a moment to start your holiday shopping here. It is easy, free, many of your usual retailers are listed and you are helping families in need.

Getting into the holiday spirit,

To My Thanksgiving Dinner Guests

This was sent to me by a friend via email. Thought you all would enjoy. Of course for us we would be serving seitan (tofurky is gross in case you were wondering) instead of the typical festive bird so no one comes to our house anyway! Enjoy and laugh a bit:

Subject: To My Thanksgiving Dinner Guests-

Dear Guests at My Thanksgiving Table:
Martha Stewart will not be dining with us this Thanksgiving. I'm telling you in advance, so don't act surprised. Since Ms. Stewart won't be coming, I've made a few small changes: Our sidewalk will not be lined with homemade, paper bag luminaries. After a trial run, it was decided that no matter how cleverly done, rows of flaming lunch sacks do not have the desired welcoming effect.

Once inside, our guests will note that the entry hall is not decorated with the swags of Indian corn and fall foliage I had planned to make. Instead, I've gotten the kids involved in the decorating by having them track in colorful autumn leaves from the front yard. The mud was their idea.

The dining table will not be covered with expensive linens, fancy china, or crystal goblets. If possible, we will use dishes that match and everyone will get a fork. Since this IS thanksgiving, we will refrain from using the plastic Peter Rabbit plate and the Santa napkins from last Christmas.

Our centerpiece will not be the tower of fresh fruit and flowers that I promised. Instead we will be displaying a hedgehog-like decoration hand-crafted from the finest construction paper. The artist assures me it is a turkey.

We will be dining fashionably late. The children will entertain you while you wait. I'm sure they will be happy to share every nice comment I have made regarding Thanksgiving, pilgrims and the turkey hotline. Please remember that most of these comments were made by me at 5:00 a.m. upon discovering that the turkey was still hard enough to cut diamonds.

As accompaniment to the children's recital, I will play a recording of tribal drumming. If the children should mention that I don't own a recording of tribal drumming, or that tribal drumming sounds suspiciously like a frozen turkey in a clothes dryer, ignore them. They are lying.

We toyed with the idea of ringing a dainty silver bell to announce the start of our feast. In the end, we chose to keep our traditional method. We've also decided against a formal seating arrangement. When the smoke alarm sounds, please gather around the table and sit where you like. In the spirit of harmony, we will ask the children to sit at a separate table. In a separate room. Next door.

Now, I know you have all seen pictures of one person carving a turkey in front of a crowd of appreciative onlookers. This will not be happening at our dinner. For sanity safety reasons, the turkey will be carved in a private ceremony. I stress "private", meaning: Do not, under any circumstances, enter the kitchen to laugh at me. Do not send small, unsuspecting children to check on my progress. I have an electric knife. The turkey is unarmed. It stands to reason that I will eventually win. When I do, we will eat.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind my young diners (and any males present) that "passing the rolls" is not a football play. Nor is it a request to bean your sister in the head with warm tasty bread. Oh, and one reminder for the adults: For the duration of the meal, and especially while in the presence of young diners, we will refer to the giblet gravy by its lesser-known name: Cheese Sauce. If a young diner questions you regarding the origins or type of Cheese Sauce, plead ignorance.

Before I forget, there is one last change. Instead of offering a choice between 12 different scrumptious homemade desserts, we will be serving the traditional pumpkin pie, garnished with whipped cream, small fingerprints, and broken crust. You will still have a choice; you may take it or leave it.

Martha Stewart will not be dining with us this Thanksgiving. She probably won't come next year either. I am thankful.

A working Mom

By: Barbara A. Tyler (as Printed in Today's Woman, November 2000)

November 22, 2005

Homeschool Blog Awards

Spunky is planning on hosting a Homeschool Blog Awards - she is looking for interest and feedback. Drop by Spunky's Homeschool and let her know it is a great idea! Promote it on your blog as well.


Thanksgiving Lesson Ideas

There is so much free information and thanksgiving lesson plans available online. If you type Thanksgiving lesson plan into google you will have many resources at your fingertips.

Some of the ones we will be using this year are:

Thanksgiving History Around the World
Story of the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving
Enchanted Learning's Thanksgiving Activities
Thanksgiving Word Search
Thanksgiving Crossword Puzzle

Each year we also have the kids make thankful wreaths or trees. We use a leaf template and glue them onto a paper plate or a cutout tree. Each child fills their leaves with things they are thankful for. Some families do this with feathers of a turkey but as vegetarians we prefer the leaves.

whatever you do enjoy your family and your many blessings and be sure to take time to show thankfulness to the One who truly provides all for you.

Peace in Him,

November 21, 2005

Chronicles of Narnia Lesson Plan

The Chronicles of Narnia series is a household favorite. Serona has performed the role of Aslan in several productions of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and his read alouds of the book are hard to compete with. The kids have grown up on Narnia and we are very excited for the release in two weeks!

In preparation for the release I began scouring the internet for good The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe lesson plans. I have found several interesting things but by far the two best resources for lesson ideas, Narnia printables and general Chronicles of Narnia resources are The Narnia Academy and Narnia Resources.

The Narnia Academy offers a free 20 lesson study going through each chapter in "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and have short lessons on it. Here are the chapter titles:
0: Welcome
1: Meet C.S. Lewis
2: Is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe An Allegory?
3: Lucy Looks into a Wardrobe
4: What Lucy Found There
5: Edmund and the Wardrobe
6: Turkish Delight
7: Back On This Side of the Door
8: Into the Forest
9: A Day with the Beavers
10: What Happened After Dinner
11: In the Witch's House
12: The Spell Begins to Break
13: Aslan is Nearer
14: Peter's First Battle
15: Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time
16: The Triumph of the Witch
17: Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time
18: What Happened about the Statues
19: The Hunting of the White Stag
20: Wait! There's More

Each section has online reading, lessons, activities, teachers guides with lesson plans, questions and other resources. It seems very well put together and informative. A great resource and free curriculum for anyone, especially homeschoolers. You can sign up individually or as part of a group. I highly recommend it.

The second resource Narnia Resources has many free downloadable resources. You can also order the resources free, though you do pay shipping which adds up quickly. Almost all the resources are available for free download though. There are great lesson plans for the Chronicles of Narnia, Narnia printables (including Narnia paper dolls) and posters. The guides are designed in different ways parent, teacher, child, event planner. Play around and see what resources you like or save them all to your computer and browse them later.

As we start working through the resources I can highlight what I like and what we do but I recommend you look through these great resources yourself. After all what can beat free lesson plans? Especially when they are interesting and well put together?


November 20, 2005

Let Them Be Little

Lyrics by Lonestar

"I can remember when you fit in the palm of my hand
Felt so good in it, no bigger than a minute
How it amazes me, you're changing with every blink
Faster than a flower blooms they grow up all too soon

So let them be little 'cause they're only that way for a while
Give them hope, give them praise, give them love every day
Let them cry, let them giggle, let them sleep in the middle
Oh just let them be little

I've never felt so much in one little tender touch
I live for those kisses, prayers and your wishes
Now that you're teaching me things only a child can see
Every night while we're on our knees all I ask is please

Let them be little 'cause they're only that way for a while
Give them hope, give them praise, give them love every day
Let them cry, let them giggle, let them sleep in the middle
Oh just let them be little

So innocent, a precious soul, you turn around
It's time to let them go

So let them be little 'cause they're only that way for a while
Give them hope, give them praise, give them love every day
Let them cry, let them giggle, let them sleep in the middle
Oh just let them be little

Let them be little"

November 19, 2005

Red Friday

Very soon, you will see a great many people wearing Red every Friday. The reason? Americans who support our troops used to be called the "silent majority". We are no longer silent and are voicing our love for God, country, and home in record-breaking numbers. We are not organized, boisterous, or overbearing. We get no liberal media coverage on TV, to reflect our message or our opinions.

Many Americans, like you, me, and all our friends, simply want to recognize that the vast ma-jority of the U.S. supports our troops. Our idea of showing solidarity and support for our troops with dignity and respect starts this Friday--and continues each and every Friday until the troops all come home, sending a deafening message that...Every red-blooded American who supports our men and women afar, will wear something red.

By word of mouth, press, blogs and television, let's make the United States on every Friday a sea of red much like a homecoming football game in the bleachers. If everyone of us who loves this country will share this with ac-quaintances, co-workers, friends, and family, it will not be long before the USA is covered in RED, and it will let our troops know the once "silent" majority is on their side more than ever, certainly more than the media lets on.

The first thing a soldier says when asked "What can we do to make things better for you?" is..."We need your support and your prayers." Let's get the word out and lead with class and dignity, by example; and wear something red every Friday.

If you agree, please share this and pass it on. We live in the land of the free only because of the Brave. Their blood runs red, so wear red. May God help America to become One Nation Under God.

Wear Red on Friday!

November 18, 2005

Stone Soup Lesson Plan

This is now the second time I have taught a class on the book Stone Soup by Marcia Brown. I have used two different approaches and I have liked different things about each approach. For my previous Stone Soup lesson idea check out this lesson.

Today I taught at our homeschool coop for our three and four year old class. I have just under an hour to teach them. Each week we pick a book and base the lesson on that. Today's was Stone Soup.

For this class I did quite a bit of prep time and work, including making the soup ahead of time (since we only had about 45 minutes total). I followed the recipe as it was in the book with one exception. Since Ciaran is in the class and we are vegetarians I substituted lentils and a vegetable bouillon cube for the meat in this story. Otherwise it was the same as the story.

I also cut out my printables and clipped them together as our children are younger. For older kids your prep time would be less and I highly recommend actually making and cooking the soup at the same time as the class if you have the time and access to a stove. We did not so we had to make it work. On to the lesson.

We began with the kids seated at the table - I had all my supplies nearby. We started with a pot and I showed it to the kids. Then as each ingredient was mentioned I passed it around to the kids (with help of other mothers) so they could smell, touch, and when appropriate taste it. Each child took a turn dumping ingredients in. An alternate approach would be to ask each child to bring one ingredient so they can see how each person contributes the little they have to make a wonderful soup all together. This was a bit chaotic with 12 3 and 4 year olds but they did a good job taking turns and listening to directions so it worked well.

While I finished reading the story and let the kids all take turns stirring the ingredients another mom heated and served the soup I had made ahead for the kids to try. Some really liked it and ate their portion other just tried it and did not want anymore. That was fine I just asked that they try it. While they ate their soup I talked about the bible story of the boy with 2 fish and 5 loaves and how it was used to feed 5,000. We also talked about how we can share and how our little can be used for greater good.

Then I reminded them how following particular directions are important in making a recipe such as soup. I then transitioned into how it is important to listen to directions in general. Then talked about a particular time people had to follow directions that made no sense at all. I read a child's version of The Walls of Jericho and how God's people had to follow what seemed like strange and silly directions - walk around the walls of this fortified city for 7 days, blow a trumpet and yell and the walls will fall down. Several kids were familiar with the story already and could answer questions right away.

Then I had them make people of Jericho using toothpicks, dots and marshmallows. Use the marshmallow as a body, toothpicks for arms and legs and one toothpick to attach the head to the marshmallow. We made walls of Jericho with graham crackers - they did not stand too well and were very fragile. They were sufficient for my purpose but you may want to try something else. Each child got to walk their Israelite around the walls of Jericho and then all the kids stood in a line. We have a little boy named Joshua so he got to be the line leader. We walked around the walls of Jericho (the table holding our graham cracker Jericho) seven times. Blowing our horn the last time, then everyone yelled and we knocked down the walls. Then the kids got to eat graham crackers and and marshmallows and dots as a snack. While they finished their snack I ended with a discussion of the importance of following directions and whose directions we need to follow. We talked about God and our parents and where we find those directions (in the Bible and our parents rules). With older kids you could also talk about listening to the laws of the land and other authority figures.

Our time was up so I sent the other craft home with the kids. I had printed out small printouts of each ingredient and a black pot for the kids to glue each ingredient onto the pot. For older kids you could make a book where they write the name of each ingredient and any observations they made about the item.

The kids had fun and while it was a bit chaotic I think it helps the kids understand better to be so active. I really liked the connection between the Jericho story and the Stone Soup book.


November 17, 2005

Virtual/Charter Public School and Homeschooling

I am finally getting around to tackling the issue. The Palmdale case motivated me to delve in deeper and research and make my personal opinions about this hot button issue. I will be chewing on this for the next week or so. Please drop me an email or leave me a comment with any good resources you may have or points of view you think are important to consider. My mind is still not made up as I am examining all the research and its implications.


It's Official

I have scraped ice. I have skidded. I have put the kids in snow boots and snow pants. We have had our first snow! It was certainly not the 8 inches predicted but it was snow nonetheless. It was the really annoying kind of snow - enough to make the roads lousy, too little to make people properly cautious while driving, and certainly not enough to sled. Oh did I mention it was 5 degrees here this morning, before windchill?


November 16, 2005

Homeschool Websites

Here is a list of 100 of the best homeschool sites. I have used many, though not all, of them. Not surprised to see Enchanted Learning and Starfall in the top 5, we use both very often!

Have fun surfing


November 15, 2005

Amazing Birthday Idea

A friend of ours recently had an amazing birthday party for her 12 year old son. He could invite all his friends but there was one rule - no presents for him. The other thing was the party was held at Feed My Starving Children.

This organization has volunteers manually assemble meal packages for hungry children. Each package contains six nutritionally rich meals consisting of five components (as listed on the website):

1. Rice, the most widely accepted grain around the world.
2. Soy nuggets, providing maximum protein at lowest cost
3. Vitamins, minerals and a vegetarian chicken flavoring to give growing children the critical nutritional elements they need.
4. Dehydrated vegetables for flavor and nutrition.

The meals cost an average of 17 cents to produce and for every dollar donated 94 cents of it goes directly to the food. It is a great organization and last year alone 5.8 million meals were packaged by approximately 27,000 volunteers.

This family made it their birthday party and the mom asked that if the kids really wanted to buy the child a gift they could donate money for meals instead. The group donated enough money for over 700 meals and packaged several thousand meals! The kids had a great time and everyone left there talking about it. Asking if they could come back, if they could have their parties there and how can they get involved. These were the "popular" type kids at school as well. It was a great party. Kudos to the family.


November 12, 2005

No surprise here

What type of homeschooler am I?

Abraham Lincoln You have a Bible and a library
card what more could you possibly need? You
prefer the Charlotte Mason Method of reading
living books for everything: historical
fiction, biographies, real histories, nature
guides, etc. No soon-to-be-outdated textbooks
for you. Visit my blog:

What Type of Homeschooler Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

November 10, 2005

School Roundup

Since we got back from vacation we are slowly getting back into the swing of things. We also had an all day field trip thrown in there. Here are some of the topics we have been studying this week in no particular order:

Reading a clock
Poetry of Robert Frost
Beethoven's 6th symphony
Artwork of Mary Cassat
Abraham, Isaac and Rebekah
Sargon the Great
The Presidents of the US
Days of the Week
Months of the Year
Solar System
Space Travel History
Present, Past and Future Tense
Family Names
Just So Stories
State Capitol Artwork
The Quadriga

Rhiannon's favorite's were floods, horses, and reading poetry. Off to have a tea party with them!


Reasons to Encourage Block Play

23.8 million dollars!

So it was made of metal instead of wooden blocks - but same principle.

November 8, 2005

A Day at the Capitol

We recently had a big all day field trip. We spent the morning at the State Capitol. There were around 75 of us including parents and kids. We divided our group into several smaller groups. We ran two tours concurrently - one for preschoolers and one for older kids.

The preschool tour - Pieces of the Puzzle was perfect for the younger set. They looked for shapes, colors, textures and particular symbols. The got to run around and even yell in their biggest outside voice in the main rotunda to hear their echo. Ciaran really seemed to enjoy himself. At one point during the tour we were sitting on the floor of the governors office when the tour guide said this room is ornate Ciaran said no it is beautiful. Sirah spent most of the tour in the Kelty backpack and all the kids seemed to enjoy themselves and have fun.

Meanwhile the older kids were working in small groups on a self-guided art treasure hunt tour. They each had a brochure and had to work their way through the building looking for 12 different items. They managed to do this quickly. The tour guide told me it should take about 45 minutes but most groups were done in about 20 minutes. They walked through the building for the rest of the time. Rhiannon enjoyed herself and she made a new friend and spent most of the day with her. I would say I would not schedule this tour again as a stand alone tour. They have other options and I would choose one of those.

We then went to lunch in the cafeteria. With some additional time to spend some families broke off to do different things in the capitol. We stayed with one other family and visited the Basillica church nearby. I was amazed at how quiet the kids were as we looked at the architecture, statues, and beautiful stained glass. I noticed how Ciaran took it all in. He is the one that likes very pretty and refined things. He of course did not like having to hold my hand however.

We also went to see the beautiful gold horse statues at the very top of the Capitol building. This is called the Qaudriga. You walk up a spiraling staircase to get to the top. The kids enjoyed looking at and both mentioned it first on the car ride home. This was our second time seeing these horses.

Then it was on to the group tour at the James J Hill house. The house was very beautiful and ornate. It was amazing to see the detail with which it was built. Even the doorways and molding was intricate and beautiful. The house was larger than I had anticipated. There were interesting things to see and learn.

However, this is definitely an older kid tour. While my kids often can handle and enjoy tours geared for older kids this one was especially difficult. The reason is because of the absolute "no-touch" policy. I can understand and support it because they are trying to preserve everything, even the workers use white gloves when they touch things.

Ciaran had an extremely difficult time with this in the beginning. Not because he was being bad so much as it was extremely tempting for him. It was not even that things were tempting to him as it was easy to forget. Even leaning against things or touching certain walls or ledges or tables in the middle of the room you could not touch. It was difficult for little kids to remember. Ciaran and I took a moment away from the tour and talked about it. When he understand that it was an absolute no touch policy it was easier. Most often we think of a no-touch policy on special times but it was hard to remember this about tables, ledges and other surfaces. He held my hand and did great the rest of the tour.

It did not help that our tour guide was a bit brisk and curt in her answering of questions. Kids are inquisitive by nature and it was sad to see their questions either get ignored, answered curtly, or shut down all together. It may have simply been the guide we had today was having a rough day but it was frustrating. Our group however is not easily daunted and continued to ask questions. We made the best of it as a group in a respectful way.

This was particularly frustrating to Rhiannon as she is a question asker. Yet I knew this was a possibility bringing young kids on the tour. I don't think I would recommend it for anyone under 8 and maybe even 10 would be a better age. Sirah slept through the entire thing in her sling.

My feet and legs are hurting tonight after wearing her in either the backpack or sling all day! off to get dinner ready.


November 7, 2005

Fields vs. Palmdale School District decision

Last week a decision was passed by the three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals located in California. The case, Fields vs. Palmdale School District, has gained much media attention and reactions in the homeschool community.

The case is in regards to a school district that conducted a survey of children in their district which included questions regarding "sexual matters" to children as young as 7 years old. Several parents sued the school district. There was a consent formed involved, however parents were upset that it did not specifically mention that the topic of sex would be covered in the questions.

There has been many negative responses to this ruling within the homeschool community and I am not sure that as home educators this is our best response. My overall feeling about the decision after reading and researching it is that it is simply a reality check for parents who choose to send their kids to public schools. It is also a positive reaffirmation of a parent's right to homeschool their child.

I read through the court case online and actually it does support parents right to choose a child's school quite strongly. As homeschoolers this decision just furthers the rights of parents to select whom teaches their children. The decision does support that parents do not have either a Privacy right or a standing in the particulars of the subjects taught to their children BY the public school (not by themselves). Of course they still can have influence with PTA, district and always have the right to remove their child. However, the court is protecting itself from individuals parents coming to the courts with individual objections to what is or is not taught by a particular school district.

The issue seems more heightened because the subject involves young children and sexual content. While I too disagree about children being asked the questions they were that does not mean it is the jurisdiction of the courts to allow parents to sue the school district. The parents did have a release form that when read carefully would make many parents hesitate to allow their children to take it in my opinion. It stated things they would look for such as anxiety, depression, aggression, verbal abuse and violence. It states that answering the questions may make your child uncomfortable and they will have the research coordinator assist in finding further psychological help if it is required. They also clearly outline that you could opt out. I am thinking this would or atleast should send up red flags for parents. It also provides a phone number and address for contacting the research coordinator with further questions. You can read it in the case which can be found at

This court ruling is controversial because it deals with "sexual matters". However, the court could just as easily substitute the word math for the words "sexual manners" and the uproar would not be the same. Yet the legal standing is. In reality if you choose to send your child to a public school you are authorizing the school to teach them. You are giving up some of your say inherently when you put them in the school system. Of course you can still try to influence the school and can always decide to leave a school.

The court case states that their is "no fundamental right of parents to be the exclusive provider of information regarding sexual matters to their children" - to have the right to be an "exclusive provider" is not enforceable by law and I agree with that. We try to keep our kids in environments consistent with what they are learning and when but reality is they learn from the world around them all the time. The decision goes on to state that parents have no right or standing to override the determination of the public schools about the information presented on a particular subject. Again remember this is in the context of standing in court. This to me also makes sense as law and is yet another reason we homeschool.

While I too had an initial bristling over the types of questions kids were asked. I place the responsibility more on the parents who did not read the release form carefully or did not call to ask follow up questions. The school district did respond to parental discontent and discontinued the use of the study.

We as homeschoolers need to be careful not to have a knee jerk reaction against something because it sounds or feels wrong. We need to investigate it further. The decision that came down is really just a reality check for parents who send their children to school, such a choice decreases your direct authority over what your child learns and does not learn. The decision that came down uses strong language that as homeschoolers we can turn to our advantage. The decision citing other cases such as Yoder, Myers Pierce and Brown and blue (see case for full citations) and states that one conclusion established is "the right of parents to be free from state interference with their choice of the educational forum itself, a choice that ordinarily determines the type of education one's child will receive."

The only part of the decision that I felt some initial concern over was when I thought it was overreaching to state that parents had no right to bring up children by introducing them to subjects of sexual matters according to their religious and personal values. However, the court does qualify and limit itself from overreaching by following immediately with "we conclude only that parents are possessed of no constitutional right to prevent the public schools from providing information on that subject to their students in any forum or manner they select."

While this decision would not make me feel comfortable if I had a student in the school district I would rest assured with the fact that I have the right to take them out of that school and to assume responsibility for their education myself. In the end the logic of the court seems to be straightforward and while the consequences may not be pleasant for those in the public school system that does not make them off the legal mark.

Read the case for yourself and decide.

Chalk one more reason up for why we homeschool.
Just my .02

November 2, 2005

Merry-Go-Round Dairy Farm

While in Maine we went to visit a dairy farm. We have been to dairy farms before. One major difference at this one was they use a "Merry-go-round" for their milking. We had never seen such a system before but it is very efficient and effective. A very basic overview.

There is a round cement rotating block with 27 stalls on it. Below and around that is a round trough that comes up like a bowl around it. The cows are led onto the merry-go-round through gated walkways and once on there are hooked up to the machines that rotate with them. Each cow makes a complete rotation which takes about 8 minutes. Water is sprayed on them to get them to back out at the end of their rotation so a stall opens up for another cow to enter. The "muck" mostly all falls off the cement into the trough where it is hosed down. An example of it can be seen in this photo below. It is not the exact one we saw but an example of a Rotolactor.

It is clean and very efficient. The whole thing is run on an engine that uses one half horsepower. When we visited they had only two people working it. One hooking the cows up at the beginning and the other unhooking them and spraying down the muck. According to the farmers they used to use a 8 shaped system that took them approximately 4.5 hours to milk 120 cows now with the merry-go-round milking system they can milk approximately 150 cows in 1 hour!

The farm visit was very fun. The kids also got to see and pet the calves. They even had a baby calf suck on their fingers. Rhiannon was not brave enough to but both Sirah and Ciaran did. Then they ended the trip by petting and feeding goats. They even got to be in the pen with the goats. They got a big kick out of the fact that one of the little ones jumped his whole body into his feeding dish.

The kids have had great field trips up here through connections at their grandparents church. They have been horseback riding, to an Elk farm, and to a dairy farm. Our kids enjoy these types of trips and since it was just us they were able to do things you often can't with a larger group. It has been fun and interesting for us as well.

Off to enjoy the last few days of vacation.


November 1, 2005