Sunday, January 30, 2011


I have a question:

What does reverence for God look like in worship?

Fire away...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Letter to The Man

Dear Big Money Doll Company,

Congratulations. You are going to get some more of our money. We have purchased cheaper, imitation products in the past and have not been pleased. Your product is better. I admit it.


The Mommy

Our younger daughter has had a favorite baby doll, received on her 4th birthday, for over 3 years now. Fiona has been like a member of the family. There have been books written about her. But her arm came off today. And there were tears.

Fiona and Sara riding Sara's horse lighting. I wish you knew how much these girls have played with these dolls. I have tons of pictures on my camera that the girls have taken like this.

The "big girl doll" we purchased on her 6th birthday still has all her limbs, but her hair looks as if dynamite may have exploded beside her head. There is no helping it. It is not lovely.

So the time has come to get one of the dolls for our daughter. The kind where, if the arm falls off, we can send the doll to their neat little doll hospital and they will put it back on. (Not with a zip tie either.)

Fiona will be lovingly dressed (in clothes that cover her arm) and placed on the shelf. She is still loved.

Little Bit with Fiona and both of her arms on the first day of school one year.
Oh, the tears dried up fairly quickly when talk of the new doll started. The new baby, which has not yet been ordered, already has a name.

Deciphering Reading Levels: You Need Three

I'm glad some of you were interested in this topic. I really hope that some of this information will be helpful. Make me feel like all those hours spent in inservice and training eating snack mix and drinking lemonade were worth it.

So, I know how to test children to find their reading level and I have the testing packet to do it. I have tested a few homeschooled kids and found their level. But levels change weekly. You don't need to know how to do that but there is something you should know.

Everyone has not one magical reading level but 3 reading levels. Easy, Instructional, and Hard. This is pretty easy to figure out and you probably already know this even if you've never heard it put this way.

A book that is on an Easy level for your child is a book that they read quickly with very few errors. When they are first learning to read, these books become memorized quite easily. That's OK. I heard once that good readers come to school with at least 10 books memorized. Like, for example, Brown Bear Brown Bear or Goodnight Moon or Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. So mom, reading that book to them for the 178th time IS good for them! But it doesn't have to be a memorized book. For Sweetheart, the American Girl books and the Magic Tree House series would all fall in her Easy level. She reads them in one sitting, comprehends what she is reading, and doesn't struggle with the words. Easy.

Instructional level books are the ones they NEED to read in order to get better at reading. These are the chapter books that Sweetheart has to work at a bit more.  These are the books that she has to ask me questions about while she's reading. Technically, an Instructional level is one that they read with 90-95% accuracy. So, they may read it pretty well, but they need a bit of help. Maybe they are having trouble working out several words, maybe they aren't comprehending it as well, they just need some help. Instructional.

Now, every child also has a Hard reading level. This is bad. You don't want them to spend time with hard books. Hard books are frustrating and you don't get much out of them. Hard books are where they miss a lot of the words, struggle through a lot of the text, don't understand it very well, and have to pause, repeat themselves, etc. all through the reading. Hard.

YOU, Mama, have these three levels too. I can pick up pretty much any children's book and it will fall into the Easy category for me. Instructional might be hard to find, but there are books which I would have to work a little harder to understand and from which I could learn. And, sad to say, I found out earlier this year that the original version of Gulliver's Travels definitely falls into my Hard category. I read two whole pages, skipping some words, and when I was finished I was all, "huh?" Have you been there?

So what does this mean for your kiddos? It means your children need to spend time in two levels, Easy and Instructional. It means it's OK to let your children read that which is easy for them. Easy is enjoyable. Easy is good practice. If they don't read enough Easy books, then let them read "babyish" books to their little brothers and sisters. It's good practice. It builds confidence. And when a book is Easy, they are freed up from the work of reading and can notice details they haven't before. It will most likely be during a reading of an Easy book that your child pays more attention to punctuation. When you aren't struggling with the text, you can notice those quotation marks more. So, keep those Easy books around. Use them to teach grammar! Easy = good.

But you must find Instructional books for your child as well. This is much more difficult. Instructional books are not Easy, but they aren't hard. They are in the middle, but the middle is a narrow strip. Now if you have a reluctant reader, it might be more difficult to decide if the book is really Hard or they just don't want to try. But I'm going to give you some resources next week that you can use to find just the right book.

So, in summary:

1. Let your child read Easy books. Easy is different for everyone. Beginning readers might not have very many things that fall into the Easy category, but I'm going to teach you next week how to get your hands on some Easy readers for the just starting out child. Easy should be enjoyable but not boring.

2. Find books that are Instructional. Instructional is different for everyone. And it changes. I remember when Sweetheart couldn't read the American Girl books by herself. Now they bore her. These levels climb up and up each year. That's good. I guess the word I'm looking for is challenging. They should challenge them when they read, but not frustrate them too much. You should read Instructional books WITH your child because there will be a lot of teachable moments during the reading of the book.

3. Stay away from Hard books. But remember: what was Hard a few months ago, might be just right now. It changes. But don't make your child read books in their Hard level. Nothing will turn a reluctant reader off faster than that. Not sure? Have them read a page. Hold up a finger for every word they mis-read or struggle through or skip. If you get all 5 fingers up by the end of the page, there is a good chance the book is too hard. You know your child best though. If they are terribly motivated by the content, they may want to read it. Use your best judgement and don't frustrate them too much. If you need a reminder, try to read Gulliver's Travels. (or whatever is Hard for you!)

Next week: Reliable Leveling

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Deciphering Reading Levels

First of all, this is going to take more than one post. I know that right now.

Second of all, I am not an expert. Some of you have more years of homeschooling under your belt and will have lots to share on this subject. I welcome your thoughts.

Thirdly, I sat through a LOT OF TRAINING in my former life as a teacher and I'd like it all to mean something, OK?

There is a lot of confusion in the way books are leveled. Please do not think that teachers just walk over to the library and pull a book off the shelf and have a student read it. Teachers, at least in the district where I taught, have whole rooms full of emergent readers that have been specially leveled. Testing occurs at the beginning, middle, and end of the year to let teachers know what level each student reads on. Then they put the kids in a group with similar-leveled children, pull leveled emergent readers out, and read with them. Throughout the year, teachers take "running records" on students as they read...which helps them know to the percentage point if a child read the book with 95% accuracy or 60% accuracy, and whether they should move up or down a level for that child.

Teachers have a lot of work, folks.

In the olden days when I first began teaching, we had none of that. We had a set of "basal readers." Basal readers are a textbook adopted and chosen by the state and given to teachers at the beginning of the year in the form of a class set of 22. Every child in the class got out the book, turned to page 17, and started reading together. Which did not work, by the way. By the time I finished teaching, 11 years later...teachers just left those basal readers on the shelf.

Where I taught, all the teachers in Kindergarten through second grade were trained in guided reading. In addition to the book levels that regular classroom teachers used, which were the Fountas and Pinnell levels, I also had training in Reading Recovery. But we had charts that told you how a F&P level corresponded to a RR level. Then, there are Scholastic Levels, DRA levels, just plain old grade goes on and on. Oh mercy, there is science to this stuff I'm telling you.

There are many, many other ways to level books and none of them seem to have anything to do with the other. For example, some publishers just go ahead and level their own books. This results in frustration when a parent or grandparent purchases a book that says "Pre-Kindergarten" and the child cannot read it. I do not trust ANY book that has been leveled by a publisher. I want to know that book's level based on F&P, or RR, or DRA....levels that are based on research.

There is so much that goes into deciding a book's level. You, dear homeschool mom, don't need to know everything about book levels, but it is helpful to think about what all is considered when leveling them the correct way. How many syllables are in the words, the level of vocabulary, the length of sentences, the decodability of the words, the number of different words used, the predictability, the use of patterns, and on and on and on.

It is probably not too hard to figure out when thinking about emergent reading books, but leveling gets a lot harder when your child moves on up into chapter books. Then, if you have a great reader they may be able to read books they really don't need to be reading content-wise, or if you have a child who is struggling to read and are way over the age of reading Fancy Nancy, even though the level is appropriate... what do you do then?

Here is an example of a publisher leveled book.

It's confusing though. If you read the notes inside, they intend for parent to read this TO the child. Big difference.

Let's assume this was a book for your young child to read: the only word that repeats is "the." There is a pattern though, and the pictures support the text. Also making it harder? The text begins in a different place on each page and sentences are broken into 2 or 3 lines which requires visual tracking.

Still, "borrowed"? Later, the words "juggled" and "attached" show up. These are HARD words folks and not ones that will naturally be assumed by looking at the pictures.
I'm going to share some things to help all us homeschool moms---all we homeschool moms? to figure all this out. Knowing a bit about reading levels can really help you choose the proper books for your children.

Up next: Everyone needs three.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Need Some Good News Today?

I've got some for you! I've been following two blogs and both have had happy news lately.

First of all, Joanne is waking up! Joanne blogs at The Simple Wife and if you had not heard, she had a major stroke a little over a week ago. She is 38 years old. She's been in a medically induced coma to try to control the swelling in her brain but in the last few days she has opened her eyes, given her husband a thumbs up, moved her toes, and started breathing on her own. She and her family still need lots of prayer, but I was so thrilled when I logged on yesterday to see her improvement!

Also, nearly a year ago when Adeye and Anthony adopted Hailee and Harper, she blogged about the children left in Hailee's room. Two of those little boys were adopted last week (and one little girl's family is in process). This is the room of children who were essentially locked away. I've been following Autumn and Josh since they launched their blog and began the adoption process. It has been so thrilling to watch as those boys were rescued. If you need a pick-me-up, go look at those handsome boys' smiling faces. They have a family now!

We need good news every now and then, don't we? And now let's all share some of our own good news.

My Good News:

1. I got groceries yesterday even though it was pouring down rain.
2. We are going to be doing a fun book this week in school. Book units make school worthwhile. Otherwise it's just work.
3. Little Bit is starting to read!!

Your turn! What good news do you have for us today?

Monday, January 24, 2011

I've Gathered You Here Today for No Good Reason

And I usually have so much to talk about come Monday! We had an interesting weekend. We started off on Friday night with Bible study, as usual. We have had a Friday night Bible study (every other week) for about 6 years now. Of course, we often go weeks and weeks without meeting because with 7 people between our two families, someone always seems to be sick or have another event they need to attend on a Friday.

We also started a Tuesday night Bible study with 3 ladies from church but due to scheduling conflicts, we've recently combined these two Bible study groups to Friday. the girls and I spend a little extra time cleaning on Fridays. I like that because it starts with weekend off well. We invited one of the ladies for supper before the study Friday and I made stew for the first time ever.

And for the second time last week.....100% of my family like the new meal. Did you hear that???? TWO TIMES last week I served new meals and got 4 thumbs up!!!! This is huge. I am now up to 28 meals on my 30 meals list.

Saturday I scrambled around looking for an idea for sewing class. I've been teaching Sweetheart and her friend B for many months now and honestly I was out of ideas. Then I decided we're just going to make felt food. Felt is so easy to sew with (and cheap!) and the felt food allows them to both hand sew and use the machine. The funny thing is, Sweetheart can't wait to PLAY WITH the felt food she makes and her friend B is trying to think of a little kid she can give it to. She doesn't really play anymore like that being the youngest in her family and having big teenage sisters.

I love that Sweetheart still plays. I know it's partly because she has a little sister. For months they have been playing bears. You know, we have quite a collection of Build-a-Bears to choose from! They have made a family consisting of Papa, Mama, Sister and Baby Bear. Each one has a personality and half of the toy room has been transformed into the bear's house. Using old boxes, they have made a stove, fridge, and fireplace. They have also made a couch and coffee table out of other objects. And the doll beds I made last Christmas? They haven't played dolls in FOREVER but it's OK because the bears are using these beds now.

I've been commissioned to sew bear clothes too. Guess I need to get on that. But did you know that doll clothes mostly fit the smaller bears? Awesome. I love that they play this together, but art imitates life. When S went out of town for work a few weeks ago, Papa was on a plane too. If I burn something in the kitchen, Mama Bear burns supper. Better watch what I do!

Anyway, the felt food will be for the bear family. It's funny to me the difference in Sweetheart and B even though they are only 9 days apart. B is in 6th grade and like I said, lives in a house of teenagers. Sweetheart is still in elementary and has a little sister. Big difference. But they are friends and after sewing class is over they both run outside to play together.

Sunday was a weird day. A very strange day. But it's not really blogging material. So we'll skip to Monday, OK?

Today I have taken off of school. According to our Sabbath School schedule, this is a week off even though we've only been back to school 3 weeks. (That was so our spring break would line up like I wanted.) Only I don't feel like taking a week off just yet. So, I talked to S about just using a day here and there as needed. Today, it's needed as the homeschool room is a mess and I need to grocery shop and do some laundry and I'd like to sew also. Mondays are good days to take off.

It's pouring outside so the grocery store is not in my near future. Guess I'll get started on something else around here. Gotta work hard to keep up this interesting blog material!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Little Bit and the Doctor

So, yesterday was weird. We got up and started school as usual. We played a game during Bible time (Hide the Spies--the story of Rahab) and Little Bit was loving it. She laughed and played. Shortly after that, she said she had a headache. She had complained of a headache a few times the day before, but it never stopped her from playing.

Yesterday, however, it made her go lay on the couch and be in pain. I gave didn't seem to help. I finally called the doctor because this child has never had a headache. If it had been Sweetheart, I wouldn't have batted an eye. She gets them all the time. The nurse suggested we bring her in just to check her out. I made a late afternoon appointment, planning to cancel if she started acting fine.

Well, after an hour or so she said her head felt better. It was time to go to the gym with our homeschool group and she said she felt like going. Once we got there, however, she didn't play. She just sat in my lap the entire hour we were there. She finally said she wanted to go home so we left.

When we got home she went straight to bed and took a nap. So, now you KNOW something is wrong. When she woke up, it was nearly time to go to the doctor's appointment. She woke up crying. OK--not good. I carried her into the doctor. Also not good. She doesn't like to be carried anymore. She sat beside me with her head on my arm in the waiting room. She didn't move. Poor kid.

The doctor came in and declared she was tachycardic so she was coming down with fever right this very minute. She had the nurse take her temperature again. Nope, still 99. She felt her hands. "Oh, they are cold! She's going to have fever soon." She put a pulse/ox meter on her thumb. "Yes...she's tachycardic. She's probably getting the flu. Has she been around anyone with the flu?"

No. She hasn't. Here's where I explained to the doctor that I assumed it was a sinus infection because for well over a week she's had a runny nose. The doctor agreed that could be it and called in medicine. But, she strongly urged me to keep an eye on her when we got home and bring her back in tomorrow for a flu test if needed because they've seen a lot of it going around.

But I was very doubtful. My kids are homeschooled. No one at church has had the flu and they aren't around their church friends that much. I mean, I KNOW they can get the flu (they both did last year--Sweetheart got it in the SUMMER!) but still....

So we get home and I quickly make supper. Little Bit asks what we are having.

"Fajitas." I say.

"Oh boy!" she says. And eats 2 of them.

Then spends the rest of the evening playing and talking and feeling completely normal. Like nothing ever happened.

She just got up and she's fever free and happy.

I have no conclusion. I am baffled, but happy.

Like I said, yesterday was weird.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What Do I Need?

I was just paying a few bills at the computer...this one:

while balancing the notebook I use as a checkbook register and my checkbook and stamps and a few bills on my lap while I worked. There's a stack of books, as usual, to the left of the computer.

This is not an ideal work environment. So I was trying to think, do I need a personal secretary or a nice big home office?

Hmm, which would be more useful?

I mean, just look at this:

Oh dear. Can you imagine? Of course, when I imagine it, I not only have that nice office area, but I have instantly become organized and there are no stacks whatsoever of mail laying around and everything is filed and there are no used Kleenexes or sweet pictures made with marker laying on top of everything else. And I can find a pen.

A girl can dream, right?

So then I remembered how one day 3 years ago or so I was sitting at our dining room table and I looked into the sewing/laundry room and noticed I could make a desk out there if I tried really hard.

Do you think it's useable even 15% of the time? Or 2%? Or do you think it's piled high with crapola laying every which way?

Which really isn't even the problem as I can't even GET TO the desk right now because of all the stuff in the sewing room floor. The sewing room, that by the way, has not been sewn in in YEARS.

Oh I am really good at making things happen but not so good at the simple upkeep.

I mean, how hard REALLY would it be to spend 3 minutes a day straightening up that area? Throwing away mail? Filing a bill or two? How hard is it to put sewing stuff away in the right place when I'm through?

Don't answer that.

Instead, I start dreaming about having a bigger house. Which, by the way, I do NOT want. I actually would like a smaller house if you want to know the truth.

So, maybe it's not a secretary, or a new house I need.

I think maybe it's a kick in the pants.

**Know what else I need? Help with my organic grocery buying! Come over to my kitchen and help me out please?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Faith on Tuesday

We've been talking a lot in church about how God's plan is bigger than us. About how every single minute detail of our lives may not work out to our advantage. About how God sees the big picture and He is working to accomplish His will...not ours.

After much discussion the last 2 weeks in our small group, one of the ladies asked, "OK. But what does this look like on a Tuesday?"

I thought that was an excellent question.

What about it? What if, on Tuesday, you are in a bad place? What if things are NOT going the way you've been hoping and praying they would go? What if you cannot for the life of you see how God is going to work out your situation? What if things have spun totally and completely out of (your) control? How does "I understand God is up to bigger things than me" look on a regular day?

We didn't have time to dive into scripture when she first posed that question. My immediate response was, "It looks like obeying anyway." We know God is in control. We know the things He has asked of us. Even on Tuesday when things are looking bad, will we continue to obey?

I think of the old hymn Trust and Obey. Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

But that isn't scripture.

So what do you think? How does our understanding that God is in control and we aren't look on a day to day basis? How are we to act or react when things are looking bad and we can't understand how any of it will work out?

What does faith on Tuesday look like?

Monday, January 17, 2011

I Know I Can Fall Back

For about a week I've been thinking about all kinds of things. For several reasons, I've been thinking that I am not guaranteed 18 years + with my girls. That's a hard thought.

But here's the truth. Mommys sometimes die.
Children sometimes die.

I hate hate hate even thinking about that. But it happens.

I've been homeschooling AND raising my daughters like I'm in a marathon and I've got LOTS of time left before the finish line. But what if I don't?

Here's what I concluded as I looked up at the moon tonight. (The sky was so clear and beautiful and God is just SO big. That's not what I concluded, but it's true.) I concluded that God is in control and He is more than able to help and handle anything that comes up. Anything.

And He gives peace. Knowing Him, and knowing that nothing is too hard for my God, I can rest. I am so glad He is in control.

BUT...that doesn't clear up the part about raising my girls not being a marathon. I'm not saying it's a race or a sprint, but it's somewhere in the middle. Today I felt more purposeful (I hate that word but it's the best one I can think of right now). Sweetheart messed up reading the measurements while making pancakes this morning. OK. She needs to know how to read measurements in order to cook. So, math today did not come from her book. We went over reading whole numbers and fractions. We made Gallon Guy. Right now. Not "I really gotta work on that with her" but now. Done.

Sure there's the part about teaching them instead of just doing it. That's important. Every single day I could teach my girls something new and useful and we could have fun together doing it. But that's not the most important thing.

The most important thing is God's Word. And their faith in Him. THAT is the A #1 thing I must instill in them. Not in 18 years but right now. Today.

Each day home with my children is a gift. I must use each day well. The days get so busy and there are so many things we *want* to do and so many things that *need* to get done.....but what is most important?

What can you do right now? Then why wait? You may very well be blessed with a long life and many, many more years with your children and their children. How will you use those blessings?

I think we need to stop saying, "I really gotta...." and start just doing it. Right then, if possible!

I don't mean to be morbid. Perhaps I'm having a mid-life crisis. But it was important to think about and work through.

To realize that I have the Lord to fall back on is a good thing.
His hope is enough.
His power is more than enough.
His love is too much to even describe.

If you don't have God to fall back on, you need Him.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


The kitchen needs to be cleaned.

But I am thankful.

The living room is kind of a mess.

But I am thankful.

It's rainy and dreary outside. And cold.

But I am thankful.

I am thankful to be home with my family. I am thankful that today, we are all healthy. I am thankful that I can hear my girls playing in the next room. I am thankful my husband is home. I am thankful for the way God provides for us. I am thankful that we have salvation because of what Jesus Christ did for us. I am thankful that God sees fit to hear our prayers.

And tomorrow I will be thankful too. There are many problems in this life. Our creation is broken and our world does not run the way God first intended it too. But I will still be thankful.

I will be thankful because God is good. He is SO good that it overshadows all the bad.

Romans 8:18: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

It's hard to realize that sometimes. Sometimes the present sufferings seem just about as bad as anything can get. God's Word says the sufferings are not even worth the glory that is to come.

I don't think we can imagine how good things are going to be one day. That is why bad seems so bad right now. But God's Word says they aren't worth comparing.

I will choose to believe that. And be thankful.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Did You Dream Last Night?

I did! And so I know I got to stage 4--REM--sleep. I read an article last night about caffeine and it was very interesting. A lot of symptoms that S and I have been attributing to his diabetes may actually be from all the coffee he's been drinking. And the article said caffeine can keep you from ever getting to stage 4 sleep and therefore you don't feel rested so what do you do? Reach for more coffee/coke etc. Vicious cycle.

I would have told you I was off of caffeine but then you have to think really hard about those chocolate kisses I've been popping in my mouth, and the iced tea from restaurants and various other little ways we get our caffeine. I read, but don't wish to research this any further, that even "decaffeinated" drinks have almost the same amount of caffeine as regular drinks. I don't want to hear that.

So I think I'll have to stick with water. But then you read about the water and.....

Oh it's overwhelming trying to be healthy!!!

Today I read that cutting your salt intake will drastically help reduce the threat of heart disease and strokes. **Raising hand** Hello! We're the family who needs to do that. There is heart disease on my side of the family and strokes all over S's side of the family.

I can cut canned vegetables just fine. But I cook with canned goods, you know? I mean, we can eat frozen or fresh green beans with no problem. But what about Ro-Tel (my college roommate always said "Roy-Tel") and all the cream of soups? Actually, Kelly posted recipes for cream of soups the other day. I'm going to be in the kitchen a lot. Sigh.

S is helpful. He has a coworker whose family lives in Nigeria or somewhere and his coworker said it takes at least 3 hours to make a meal there. I keep getting reminded of that by Mr. Helpful. I read last week, boy I wish I could remember where, about how the prep time for meals has shortened and shortened over the years. The average clean up time is now 4 minutes. FOUR MINUTES. That cannot mean healthy eating. That has to mean it takes you 4 minutes to stuff all the styrofoam containers in the trash, right?

We're light years away from where we were a year ago on our eating. But we still have a long way to go.

So, how have you been eating healthy lately? Did you dream last night?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I'd Like to Lodge a Complaint

You would think winter would be the time to really buckle down in homeschool and get LOTS and LOTS done. I mean, no beautiful weather calling our name, no warm backyard beckoning, no swimming pools's perfect. We are holed up in this house and it's below freezing outside--so why are we not getting the LOTS and LOTS done? (I mean, we are getting things done. But not LOTS and LOTS.)

It's just that our beds are SO cozy and warm. And there are colds among the girls. And the warm house must be making us sleepy and content to go at a snail's pace.

I can't imagine how bad it will be when spring fever hits!

I guess I am the one who needs to get things going around here.

I am the grown-up.

I am the grown-up.

I am the grown-up.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I'll Be Spending Some Time in the Corner Now

School is planned for the next 8 weeks. I did a whole bunch of planning at once so I wouldn't have to think about it too much. Of course, we are already way off the scheduled lesson plans, but you know. We'll keep going.

So now I can focus my attention on something else. You know how I had that theory that my house would be totally clean if only we didn't have horizontal surfaces? Well, this week I have a new focus. I'm going to walk around the walls in each room and pick up stuff that has just sort of parked there.

We have a corner in our bedroom that is stacked with books, notebooks, and papers. On the floor! Why? I'm going to go through those this week. I'm talking about the clutter that has been there for a long time and you don't even notice it anymore.

There's no telling what I may uncover!

Back when Carrie suggested our book club moms read The House That Cleans Itself, I did one of the assignments. The assignment was to walk around your house and take pictures. You were not supposed to straighten ANYTHING before you took the pics. Oh dear.

I'm finally feeling brave enough to show you a few of the better ones:

Hey cool. I'm sitting in that chair RIGHT NOW! See the junk to the right? There's different junk now. But why? Why is it there?

This is known as crap corner. EVERYTHING gets put down on this part of the kitchen cabinet. Drives me crazy.

Oh the dining room floor.  I sew there (not on the floor) and then quickly clean off the table for meals. Here is the result.
 As you can see, and these are really old pictures, I have my work cut out for me. I think these corners of stuff are what's keeping our house out of the "model home" category.

Other than that, we're REAL close.

Monday, January 10, 2011

It's a Pretty Low Number, I'm Thinking

I finally got around to reading Dumbing Us Down The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling  by John Taylor Gatto. It's been on my wish list at Paperback Swap for a long time. It's a short book--just over a hundred pages.

But it's a little outdated. And that's sad because I think some of the things he talked about are actually worse now. First, let's look at his numbers and then we'll talk about what might have changed in the last 21 years since he spoke these words.

(from a speech given in 1990)

"Out of the 168 hours in each week my children sleep 56. That leaves them 112 hours a week out of which to fashion a self.
According to recent reports children watch 55 hours of television a week. That then leaves them 57 hours a week in which to grow up.
My children attend school 30 hours a week, use about 8 hours getting ready for and traveling to and from school, and spend an average of 7 hours a week in homework--a total of 45 hours. During that time they are under constant surveillance. They have no private time or private space and are disciplined if they try to assert individuality in the use of time or space. That leaves them 12 hours a week out of which to create a unique consciousness. Of course my kids eat, too, and that takes some time--not much because they've lost the tradition of family dining--but if we allot 3 hours a week to evening meals we arrive at a net amount of private time for each child of 9 hours per week." John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down page 29.

Several things occurred to me while I was reading this. First of all, the "recent reports" are not recent any longer. I wonder what the average amount of T.V. watched is now? More than that, this was written before the Internet splashed into our lives. With the addition of computers, cell phones, handheld games, etc. what do you suppose is the new number devoted to "TV and other media" these days?

My guess is it's pretty substantial. The little 4th grade girl who lives across the street came over to jump in the leaves with my girls the other day. She held up her phone and asked where she could put it while she jumped.

I've also noticed that the school day is extended for a lot of students. There is after and before school tutoring, clubs and organizations after school, etc. The local middle school by our neighborhood has children still hanging out at the building well after 5:00pm. Why???

Then there is the homework number. I think it might be higher but it depends on what grade your child is in, what school they attend and also who their teacher is that year. Homework varies greatly. What would you say the average number of hours a week would be?

I can only imagine. Sweetheart only went to public school through 1st grade, but they had us busy. Boy did they ever! The thing is, this quote from the book sounds so grim. How can my child go to public school and still turn out OK? I don't think it's any secret that I'm not too fond of public school or its results. Most of my opinion changed when I changed from being the teacher to being the parent. That was a whole new perspective. When your child is in public school, you just have to spend so much energy making up for the deficits. And wondering about the what might have beens.

The funny thing is, I don't believe this is solely a public school issue. I know homeschool families who are involved in absolutely everything imaginable. Sure, the homeschool crowd may be a bit more gentle and easy-going, but if your child is spending so many hours a week in group activities and scheduled time...there are still repercussions.

As Americans, I think we are just too busy.

And I couldn't help but think about church while I was reading all this. Church activities can suck the time away from a family faster than anything.

I was struck by this section needless to say. I feel afresh the need to protect my children's time and to prayerfully consider activities they will be involved in.

What do you have to say about all this? What do you think the numbers would be today?

**Don't forget to check in on my kitchen! Go see what's new and shiny and what I think about while I cook.**

Friday, January 7, 2011

That Terrible, Sinking Feeling

When I taught 3rd grade in my former life, we used to teach a really long ocean unit. Our readers had lots of ocean themed stories, including one about the Titanic. We would turn our classrooms into oceans, with blue saran wrap on the ceiling and seaweed going up the walls. And stupid dangly fish hanging from everywhere to walk into for a month. It was awesome.

With a little research, I found that National Geographic had a video about when Dr. Robert Ballard discovered the wreck of the Titanic. Nat Geo is known for great videos. The box said something about "National Geographic Family Video Series" or something like that. In addition, there was a class set of colored, glossy books full of photos about the Titanic. Score!

Still, I watched the video at home before I showed my class. Boy am I glad I did because Dr. Robert Ballard, in all his excitement, at the exact moment he realizes he's found the Titanic, lets out the mother of all cuss words. Just so we're clear how bad it was, it's initials are g.d. National Geographic didn't feel the need to edit this out for their "family video series." Sigh.

So, I figured I could handle it. I memorized the exact part where the word would take place and while my class watched, I simply muted that part and talked over it.

"Now class, what he's doing here is....." and then I hit un-mute. Perfect.

The next year 2 classes were watching the video together and I hadn't had a chance to warn Mr. A (a very conservative Christian teacher with a picture of Ronald Reagan over his desk), about the word. I had the remote so I just "accidentally" his fast forward. Oops! I "fumbled" with the remote and hit play. Problemo solved. I was so slick.

My students LOVED the Titanic unit. The movie came out when they were in 5th grade and I think they ALL stopped by my door to tell me "Mrs. E--there's going to be a Titanic movie!!!!!" My heart swelled with pride that my students still had that spark of excitement about learning that I had placed inside of them.

A few years later, I got around to watching Titanic and what I learned was my students had watched Leo and Kate steam up the inside of a car. Niiice.

We began a program at our school where we stayed with our class for 2 years, through 3rd and 4th. Then, we would loop back down to 3rd and pick up another class. So we were switching everything around, preparing to be 4th grade teachers and they to be 3rd grade teachers. I gave Mrs. G (another Christian teacher, in her late 50s at the time) all my stuff for the Titanic unit and I warned her about the video.

I reminded her before the ocean unit came up about the video. She thanked me. What happened next is one of my favorite stories ever.

She said she put the video in and then settled in at her round table in the back of the room to grade papers. I mean, this is why teachers show videos--to get caught up on paperwork and planning. She remembered about the word, but in her paper grading, the remote control got lost in the piles. She said she looked up and realized it was the part I had warned her about. She scrambled around at the back table, furiously looking for the remote and then realized she just didn't have time to find it. She sprinted to the front of the room through a sea of children, her arm extended in order to hit a button--ANY button quicker. Just as her index finger was INCHES from the TV...

...Dr. Ballard found the Titanic.

She quickly turned around and faced the class. A girl on the front row gasped and crossed herself.

All was forgiven. Mrs. G apologized and the class said it wasn't her fault. She asked them to please not go home and tell their parents Mrs. G had shown a bad movie.

So last night we were watching Annie. For the first time ever in my life of watching this movie, I heard FOUR cuss words.

Two of them were the Dr. Robert Ballard kind.

But I think I can cough over 'em next time.

What do you do when a perfectly good movie is ruined by one or two bad words? It's so discouraging!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Transition

I'm sitting here wrapped up in my leopard print birthday Snuggie with the laptop.

I just wanted you to have a visual.

If you read Carissa's blog, you know she is really good about transitioning her kids in school. What I mean is, when Krash, her current pre-schooler, needed to move from "Tot School" expectations to "Pre-school" expectations, she had a whole plan and spent time going through those changes with him. She didn't just say one day, "OK.You're 4. Time to get to work!"

That's very wise and S and I have been talking about the need for Sweetheart (5th grade) to transition into more of an independent student. Unfortunately, I'm ahead of Carissa in children's ages so I can't just use all the awesome printables and downloads and units she will be sure to come up with when her children are this age. Shoot.

I know that there won't be a grand "now you are in middle school" feel to Sweetheart's school experience seeing as how she'll still be sitting in the same homeschool room with me and her little sister. Not too much frightening about that. We're considering shoving her in the closet some mornings on her way to the homeschool room and making fun of her each afternoon just so her experience will be authentic.

Anyway, it really hit me that this is the second half of her 5th grade year and it's time to start a transition. So, after talking it over with S, this is what we came up with.

We used to start our morning doing all of our "together" subjects (Bible, History, Science) in one fell swoop. Then, the girls had contact papered charts of what they needed to do the rest of the day so they could check things off with a marker and re-use the chart the next week too. Some of the subjects were independent and some required me. It didn't matter to me what order they did them in but they couldn't both work with me at the same time, obviously. This was working just fine. But it's the new year and I wanted something fresh.

Now, I have a binder for Sweetheart with all her independent work inside. This took more effort on my part than just going day by day but it's worth it. She begins her school day at her desk under her loft.

Uh, it's cleaner now.

And I begin the day with Little Bit in the school room doing reading, spelling, journal and handwriting with her. Little Bit LOVES having me all to herself first thing in the morning.

Here is what Sweetheart is doing in her room:

1. Read one chapter of the Bible. (Right now she's reading John and I made a list for her to check off. Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc.)

2. Write in journal. I made an assignment sheet for the week. Yesterday's assignment looked like this:

Wednesday  January 5, 2011
Write a story about a baby ladybug. You may draw a picture at the bottom of the page when you are through.

So, the date is right there for her to copy into her journal and each day has a new assignment. Since she read over them all on Monday, I know she's been thinking about what she wanted to write ever since then. And that's a good thing because her story about the ladybug had all the story elements in it.

3. Grammar. Here is where she does 2 boxes on a Drops in the Bucket sheet.

4. Math Practice. I printed a bunch of practice worksheets for her (way more than one week's worth) and just let her pick one to do each day. I check it the next morning.

5. Handwriting. One sheet in her Handwriting Without Tears book. I will probably begin to alternate this with copywork next week.

The first morning all this took her 30 minutes. Can you believe that? She LOVED working by herself and knowing exactly what was next. She's already asked me if she had to do things in order and I told her she did not. At a real job, you work on whatever needs doing and no one really tells you "first this, then this" so I'm letting her choose. If her math papers are continuously wrong, we may discuss the need to do math first. We'll see.

Then, the rest of the school day is spent alternating between "together" subjects and individual subjects. The only independent subject Little Bit has is computer time. But that's only because she's in first grade. Doing things this way breaks up all the reading I do and the listening they do in History and Science so that's easier on Little Bit.

So far, so good. This is the first step in having a more independent student. Don't ask me what the next step is, because I haven't a clue.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It's About Time!

Christmas Eve night I got up to go to the bathroom. I walked around our bed, past our bedroom door to get to the bathroom and when I looked up who should be standing there in the hall by her bathroom door but 11 year old Sweetheart.


"What are you doing?" I asked sleepily.

"It's after 8:00. We can get up now!" she said.


OK. Folks, it was actually 1:40AM.

Can you see the dilemma?

I know. She was really excited to get up but it was funny. I made a joke to my family about how we might need to review telling time when school started back in January. (Ya think?) My dad bought a simple looking clock at Wal-Mart for the girls. It's hanging in our homeschool room now.

Sweetheart walked by a few minutes ago and told me what time it was. Then she said, "I think I might need to memorize the minutes so I don't have to count by 5's every time. Just like I'm memorizing my math facts."

***Insert Hallelujah Chorus here.***

And also, our new schedule for school is working out great!!!! OK so it's only been 1 day. I'll tell you about it later today. Gotta teach spelling right now. It's time.

By the way, the clip art for those clocks came from this site and it's awesome!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I Need a Hard Copy of This

My mom does not get computers. She doesn't read e-mail. She doesn't Facebook. She doesn't touch a computer. The remote is about all the technology she can handle. If my parents get an e-mail that my mom would like to read, my dad prints it out for her. She wants it IN her hands.

Cracks me up. The first time she ever got an e-card she just about came unglued. It was beyond her why she could not have it in her hands.

Well....I might just be printing me some stuff off the computer today because I want to keep it forever. My e-friends and real life friends got together under Terry's guidance and Giovanna's linky and sent me some birthday wishes.

I promise I'm not sharing this to milk more birthday wishes! I'm sharing it because they were so stinkin' awesome!!! Click on Giovanna's link up there to see what my funny and sweet friends had to say. Some of them are on my list!!! :)

Moving Past

The most amazing thing happened yesterday. Little Bit came into the bathroom while I was showering to tell me she had decided to name her new little doll Sparkle.

The amazing part? She knocked before she entered and she closed the door when she left. Without being reminded!!!!

You do not KNOW how long we have worked on those two skills around this house! I had to lock doors that I didn't want them to open, listen to them accidentally body slam themselves into the door while they tried to open it and then remind them, "You are supposed to knock when a door is closed." I think that went on for 2 years.

But now, I don't have to lock doors anymore because they automatically knock.

I got to wondering what else we are past that used to concern or bother me. Well, there are no more thumb or pacifier suckers in this house and that went on to Guinness proportions around here. They both stopped on their own. It's not even on our radar. Something that used to concern me so much is just....gone.

There are many other things as well. Things that we got past and that aren't issues any longer.

Isn't that how it should be? The author of Hebrews chewed them out just a bit about this:

"For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."

I am turning 40 today. I have been a Christian like...26 years. Am I past the things I should be past? Am I making progress? Are the things that used to be issues in the past as they should be?

I am encouraged to see progress in my children, but am I looking for their spiritual progress? They have learned to knock on closed doors. Have they learned how to look up scripture? They have memorized our phone number. Have they memorized Bible verses? They have learned to say, "I'm sorry." Have they learned about forgiveness?

I take this parenting thing very seriously. I take my children's "spiritual development" (that's such a weird phrase but I don't know how else to describe it) very seriously. I know it's not exactly separate from the rest of their's all connected. In a few years, we should not still be concerned with the same things we are concerned with today.

We should keep moving.

What things are in the past at your house that used to be a big deal? What are you hoping will get in the past like....yesterday?

Monday, January 3, 2011

How to Extend Your Christmas Break

First of all, do NOT finish your lesson planning in time.

Secondly, think of 2 really important errands that need to happen first thing on Monday.

Then, realize you haven't paid the bills or updated the checkbook.

That will pretty much ensure you get a day off to accomplish all these very important things. Your husband will agree.

And that is the story of how I got the day off to finish up all these loose ends and school starts tomorrow instead.

The End.