Monday, October 31, 2011

Grammar Makes Know Cents

I found this the other day and wanted to share it with you. It made me laugh since when I was proofreading an excellent paper of Bubba's the other day, I noticed one of the listed common errors several times (number five). He blamed it on the computer choosing the wrong form of led (it chose lead every time), but when I suggested he turn off the auto-edit feature, he adamantly said, "I am not going to do that. I like it." 

Personally, auto edit annoys me precisely because the English language is so mixed up that it is difficult for the edit feature to be of much actually need to know how to spell in order to use it effectively, so I just don't get the point. 

Anyhow, this is just a little random something funny to start off your week. I don't know from whence it came, so if somebody cares to claim it and demand recognition for writing it, leave me a comment. Otherwise, just enjoy it.

Welcome to the English language!


You think English is easy? 

Can you read these right the first time? 
01) The bandage was wound around the wound. 
02) The farm was used to produce produce. 
03) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse. 
04) We must polish the Polish furniture. 
05) He could lead if he would get the lead out. 
06) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert. 
07) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present. 
08) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum. 
09) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes. 
10) I did not object to the object. 
11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid. 
12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row. 
13) They were too close to the door to close it. 
14) The buck does funny things when the does are present. 
15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line. 
16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow. 
17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail. 
18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting, I shed a tear. 
19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests. 
20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend? 

Let's face it, English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England nor French fries in France .. 
Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat. 
We take English for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig. 

And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it? 

Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital, ship by truck and send cargo by ship, have noses that run and feet that smell? 

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out, and in which an alarm goes off by going on. 

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible. 

PS. - Why doesn't Buick rhyme with quick? 

You lovers of the English language might enjoy this: 

There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is UP . 

It's easy to understand UP , meaning toward the sky or toward the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP ? At a meeting, why does a topic come UP ? Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report ? 

We call UP our friends. We use something to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver, warm UP the leftovers, and clean UP the kitchen.. We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car . At other times the little word has real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses. To be dressed is one thing but to be dressed UP is special .. 

And this UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP. We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night. 

We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP! To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions. If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP, you may windUP. When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP. When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP. 

When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP . 

When it doesn't rain for awhile, things dry UP . 

We could go on, but I'll wrap it UP , for now my time is UP , so: Time to shut UP ! (I mean, be quiet!)

What? We're Supposed to Make Plans?

Hop on board the TOS Blog Cruise
and see what other homeschoolers are up to...

You'd think that since I have a teaching degree (and used it to teach 8th grade English before coming home to teach my own kids) that I'd be a very organized and planned-ahead sort of person. After all, I paid money to be trained to write up lesson plans and did it professionally for three years.


Well, okay, I admit that I am not un-organized. With the right amount of space, enough time, and the appropriate tools, I am even more organized than I usually am today. However, ample space, time, and tools currently do not apply to our situation. We are living in a house that "needs work," not to mention, needs more room, and I deal with migraines (which affect my ability to think and function) regularly. Both of these things have caused me to be a "seat of the pants" sort of teacher in recent years, meaning that I use whatever resources I have from day to day to get something useful done.

But wait...please don't think that that means that our learning is disjointed and all over the map. In fact, I really am an organized person at heart. And I do have a reputation for being able to find anything, make do with what I have, gather excellent resources, and pull something together quickly (because my knowledge base is fairly wide). So, given our decision to work on Ancient History and Cultures this year, and our ownership of a wide range of resources (collected over time), you will find us doing something to work towards our basic goals (Bible, reading, writing, arithmetic, history, nature study, art, music) on any given day. Just don't ask me Tuesday what we are going to be doing next Wednesday, because honestly, I just don't know.

I know. All of you folks out there who have Sonlight or A Beka Curriculum guides to rely upon are probably hyperventilating right about now. Believe me, I have considered what the blessing of knowing what is going to be done on any given day (and not needing to plan anything myself) might be. But any time I try it, it's a big flop. 


  1. I get a bad run of headaches and all plans go out the window to be converted into a temporary cinematic extravaganza (meaning Netflix saves the day) or an online work day 
  2. I find some fun, new (often free) resources that the kids and I are dying to try out (lapbooks, internet sites, living books, field trip opportunities) 
  3. I get bored. Yes, really. I am admitting it. Doing the same thing (or same type of thing) every day bores me. It is not my ideal learning style. 

I am what I consider to be a "delight-directed" sort of learner. Now, I know that this does not mean that all my kids are that sort of learner, and I know I have to worry about what they need to help them be successful lifelong learners, but truthfully, right now, the younger four are too young to have a real set learning style (at least, if they have desires to do anything in a way that varies from my way, I have not yet seen evidence of it), Tex (age 14), is an independent learner and does most of his work on his computer (which works for him because he is a techie and a lefty, so the computer is an ideal tool), and Bubba, well, he's graduated and doing very well adjusting to owning his own business and taking college classes a few at a time.

In any case, running with our interests is working for us right now, so I do not see any reason to adjust from this method. However, since it's always better if you do have the finish line in mind when you are running, I have planned out a vague timeline in my mind, and when choosing what to do each day, I keep that timeline in mind. For example, I know we want to be through Egypt by Christmas break, and we take much of December off to celebrate the season and accomplish all that it entails in a joyful way, so while we are enjoying delving into the cultures of the Egyptians, and other ancient people groups, there will be an end to it and a start to something new...Greece until Spring break, then Rome until June. This isn't a precise plan, and honestly, the exactitude of it does not concern me since doing history as a four year cycle is my intention, so anything we miss this first time around will be covered again in four years, and likely in more depth (since the Amigos are so young now...ages 2-almost 8). There is some security in knowing that even if you miss something, you will have another opportunity to revisit the information. For me, at least, it opens up the way to explore interests and have fun.

All that having been said, I DO use several resources to help me keep what we do study organized. First, there are two daily planners which I have used in the past to help me keep track of what we accomplish. Please understand that I do not use these as planners (as in "plan ahead"), but as record-keeping tools, and a way to look back at our week and evaluate what I might improve or need to address the following week...however, you can feel free to use them as a plan-ahead planner, if that is what works best for you. They are both very good, spiral bound, simple, yet effective, planners.

The first is the Record of a Learning Lifestyle by Notgrass Company. I liked this one last year because it has spaces to fill in for spiritual learning, chores, creative expression, relationships to others, and physical activities, in addition to the usual academic pursuits. The spaces for writing in your activities are generous, and while it encourages some structure, it doesn't box you in. I think this planner is especially great for younger students, and it works well with the Charlotte Mason style of learning.

However, in recognition of this year's move towards a Unit Study method, we have chosen to use the the Unit Study Daily Plan Book by Carey Taylor which I bought from Rainbow Resource Center at our state convention last June. This has been a definite winner for me, as it includes spaces for a daily subject by subject breakdown of educational activities (which I sometimes use as a student by student breakdown instead, since the label lines are blank), places to write down books read and videos watched, a section for special activities and projects, a spelling and vocabulary section, a space to note which timeline characters you will be covering, and a space where you can check off which subjects you covered on which days, for people like me who are more random, but prefer to make sure all the bases are covered each week. If you ever use unit studies in your homeschooling, I highly recommend this planner.

All that said, I still do have dreams of being more organized ahead of time. I'd like to have all our amazing ideas mapped out (to a certain extent) so that in times when I am less functional, I can just pull out a book that tells me what I am supposed to be doing and don't have to think up anything, or choose to just put the kids in a holding pattern, doing work online or watching a topic-related movie. Not that I think there is anything inherently bad with either of those options, or I wouldn't be using them, but I think there is something to be said for striving to always make improvements and adjustments. To help me with those goals, I asked my husband to buy me the Planning Your Charlotte Mason Education dvd and book set for my birthday in June, and was hoping to have time this summer to really dig into it. Nope. Not yet. But it is in my drawer, waiting for a chance to be heard and learned from. Perhaps during the Christmas season, there will be time to sit and watch and sew a bit...sigh.

One last thing that I will say is a planning lifesaver around our house are our marker boards. Earlier this school year, I decided to give up on that idea of having a meticulously pre-scheduled plan (again), and went searching for a viable alternative. I liked the idea of workboxes, as you can develop them a week at a time, depending on how far you get the previous week. All the stuff you need is within easy reach, the kids can start to get work done on their own, and the idea of offering a variety of learning tasks each day sounds exciting for the kids. However, space is at a premium in our house, and we have our own living proof of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (everything moves from order to disorder) in our house (Boo), so that idea isn't viable for this year. 

Fortunately, while researching workboxes, I discovered how another blogger used marker boards to organize her kids' assignments using workbox labels (and markers), enabling her to achieve much the same effect as workboxes without the space required for them (since all the needed items for the day fit into one box instead of many). I tell about how I am using markerboards this year in my post on Organizing Our School...1,2,3, Help!. Using the boards is the way I have of translating the "lesson plans" I see in my head to "paper" so the kids can implement the plan without me holding their hand every step of the way. Eventually, we want them all to be self-directed learners, like their older brothers.

There is still that dream of someday having great lesson plans that anyone can follow if I have a bad day...but for now, I am setting dreams of that aside, and learning not to feel like I have to produce solid plans two months in advance to keep up with the Joneses. There is something secure to be said about having solid, pre-written, well-thought out lesson plans, but there is something to be said for flexibility, delight, exploration, and thinking outside the planner box, too.

If you aren't a meticulous planner, and have been knocking yourself out trying to become one, I challenge you to take a step back and look at the big picture. Are your kids excited about learning? Are they interested in what you are teaching? Do they explore ideas on their own? Do they love to read and draw/make stuff and try new things? Are they developing all the basic skills (reading, math, writing) to the best of their capability level? Are they happy? Are you happy?

If you answered "yes" to these questions, then maybe what you are doing, scheduled or not, is just what you are supposed to be doing at this time, and detailed lesson planning isn't needed right now. Give yourself a break (like I did) and keep your focus on your kids, their character, and their appreciation of learning because you are doing great!

If you answered "no" to any of these questions, schedule or not, you need to take a second look at what you are doing and evaluate whether it is the most effective method of teaching for you and your students. Perhaps you need to work on making a more concrete schedule because you, or they, need one. Or perhaps you need to break out of your rigid schedule for a time because your kids (0r you) need to exercise your self-expression and explore some personal interests for a while to bring back the joys of home education.

Whatever your style of lesson planning is, as long as it works for you, your hubby, and your kids, I hope you have planned (or intentionally not-planned) your way into having the best year ever!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Family Game Night--Say Anything Family Edition

Our family loves to get together and play board games. We have LOTS of favorites. Unfortunately, we just don't get together to play our board games often enough. Days go by and the good intentions are there, but then Fun Friday rolls around again and something else comes up...a good movie, an activity, an outdoor adventure, life (sick kids, gardens that need tending, an invitation to meet friends)...

In spite of the busy-ness of our days, I want my kids to have fond memories of us playing games together as a family, just like we did when I was growing up (we played Sorry! and Uno together when I was a kid), so when the opportunity to review a game comes up, I always try to get in on the action. There's nothing like a review item to excite the troops at our house, and if that item is a GAME (instead of work), then the general consensus around here is to bring it on!

Last Crew season we had a great time reviewing Wit and Wagers Family Edition by Northstar Games. This season we were the recipients of the game Say Anything Family Edition from the same company. If you'd like to see how we all liked Wits and Wagers, you can check out my review, but I will tell you briefly that it was a real winner at a pre-Christmas dinner party last year. The whole family, from ages 5-50+ sat around the table and had a whole lot of laughs together thanks to that game.

Our experiences with this game were very similar, only due to illness and timing, the gaming pool was limited to our own family, ages 2-40+ (did you really think I was going to tell you how old I am??). However, that did not diminish our enjoyment of the game one bit. We sat down and set up the game. We assigned Ladybug and Cowboy "partners" (though it was a token gesture to make Firefly and Boo feel included), handed out the nifty marker boards (this is everyone's favorite feature of the game...who doesn't love using a marker board?), and for simplicity's purpose (since we were playing with the younger kids), I stood as judge for the whole first game, and then we tried it the regular way (each player takes a turn being judge, going around the table as you play) for the second game.

Here are the basic rules:

  1. Each player is issued a marker board and marker with which to write their answers, a score keeper takes the score board to keep track of points earned, the judge handles the "Selectomatic 6000" and the deck of question cards.
  2. Each turn, the judge draws a card and reads one of the three choices of questions on the card. This works well for all ages, since the questions vary in appropriateness for differing ages. In the Family Edition, all the questions seem to be content-appropriate, but not all will be relevant to the younger ages. If you like, you can always read the first question on your first time through the deck, then move on to the second question the second time, and so on. If you have a variety of ages, you can simply choose the question that works best for your group. That is what we did.
  3. Each player (or team) answers the question asked by writing their response on their marker board as fast as they can, then they toss their board into the center of the playing area. The reason you must move quickly, is that duplicate answers are prohibited, and the slower individual must change his answer. The judge moderates all disputes.
  4. Once everyone has answered, the judge uses the Selectomatic spinner to indicate which answer they prefer, and places it face down on the table...this may take some time, as players can (in a friendly way) attempt to sway the judges opinion by telling why their answer is the best one. Once the judge decides, the other players  place wagers (just like in Wits and Wagers) on which answer they think the judge will choose as their favorite.
  5. Lastly, the winning answer is revealed, points are distributed, and everyone laughs at how ridiculous your (or my) answer was...then it starts all over again until every player has had a chance to be judge twice, or (as we did...our own version) one player (or team) reaches twelve points.
What did the troops like about this game?
  • Need I say it again? The marker boards, of course!
  • The humor, the silly and interesting questions, the fun quotient
  • The interactivity, the crazy conversations, being a part of a cooperative, slightly competitive (in a fun way) activity
  • The crazy things you learn about your family...who knew that Tex would like to spend the day with the Human Torch...Flame On! Should I be worried?
  • The simplicity of the game play
  • The multi-age appeal
  • The quality of the product
  • The fact that there are three questions on each side of the cards...more choices, more games to play!
What did they not like about the game?
  • I think they would only say two things (and they are very tiny things). The first is that it was a bit hard for the younger kids to keep up with writing their answers (but we were patient and appreciated their invented spelling).
  • The second is that there were some questions we simply had to skip because they did not apply to us at all...especially to the younger crew members...there were numerous ones on celebrities, TV shows, and rock music, and we just don't get into that stuff...but they'd be easy enough to re-word, if we ran out of questions, so I'm not too worried about them. The questions certainly apply for other families. Just not ours.
Here are a few examples of questions you might see on the Say Anything cards:
  1. What would be the coolest make-believe animal?
  2. What tourist attraction would I most want to visit?
  3. If I was 50-feet tall, what would be the best way for me to make money?
  4. What car would I most want to own?
  5. What doesn't taste better with ketchup?
  6. What two ingredients would make the best candy bar?
  7. What's the funniest movie?
  8. Which book character would I most want to hang out with?
  9. What would be the coolest thing to have in my back yard?
  10. What would be the worst job?
Say Anything Family Edition is all about knowing yourself, getting creative, thinking outside of the box (if you want to impress the judge and win!), and getting to know your family just a little bit better. It will add fun and warmth to an otherwise gloomy and cold rainy night, excitement to one of those "same old, same old" school days, and a feeling of connectedness and camaraderie to a week where everyone has been running in a dozen different directions.

I hope you will give Say Anything Family Edition a try. Perhaps you can add it to your Christmas shopping list. We like to buy a new board game for the family every year at Christmas time, as a tangible reminder to get together and have some fun. All work and no play makes Fun Fridays not so much go out and have a great time playing a game tonight...together!

If you'd like to see more reviews by other members of the TOS Review Crew, you can do so HERE.

You can buy Say Anything Family Edition from a store near you  or an online source such as Amazon for about $19.99.


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this game for the purposes of trying it out so I could review it here on my blog. No other compensation was given, and the opinions you read here are honest and my own. If you have any questions concerning this review, please feel free to contact me.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

My FAVORITE Homeschooling Book Ever!


My favorite homeschooling book 

ever is...

drum roll, please...

Educating the Wholehearted Child

by Clay and Sally Clarkson

Yes, it is true. You may not be able to pin me down on my favorite movie (is it Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or Pride and Prejudice?) or even get me to agree to name just ONE homeschooling style that I think identifies me (eclectic with a lot of Charlotte Mason, some unit studies, taking a delight-directed path), but I can and WILL enthusiastically tell you that my all time, number one, favorite homeschooling book EVER is Educating the Wholehearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson of Whole Heart contest or reservations.

This is what my original copy 2nd Edition copy looks like, 
only mine is more faded and worn out.

I have a copy of this book from my early days of homeschooling (it has been nearly thirteen years for us) and it is dog-eared, worn out, much loved, and many times referred to. When I talk with moms who are considering homeschooling, or need some encouragement, I usually suggest that this book is a great place to start. It is full of the wisdom of a godly couple who have been serving the homeschooling community since 1994 with a desire to "come alongside Christian parents to help them prepare their children to become Christian leaders in the next generation."

Clay and Sally Clarkson and their four children
Sarah, Joel, Nathan, and Joy

The Clarksons openly share their many years of experience and the lessons they learned as Christian homeschooling parents so that we can learn from them. They seek to help other parents "focus on the biblical and practical aspects of home nurture, home discipleship, and home education." By reading this book, it is as if you gain the mentorship of a wise older couple to disciple you as you embark on (or strive to enrich) your homeschooling journey. 

I will be honest here and tell you that this book (and a few other favorites...but this is number one) is the closest I have ever gotten to having a mentor for homeschooling. Perhaps because we are a military family and have moved so often, or perhaps (some tell me) because I come across as knowledgeable and confident (so folks think I don't need help), in spite of years of searching, I have never found someone to be a mentor to me...In fact, people tend to come to me to ask questions, instead of the other way around. So what's a gal to do when she can't find someone to talk to? In my case, I go to the bookstore and I find a good book. I was VERY blessed the day the Lord led me to this one. It has been a sanity-saver for me more than once.

Can I tell you what else has me so excited about this book today? There is a brand new edition out (yay!), published by Apologia, and not only is the content updated to reflect the more than fifteen years of new experience gained since the book's first publication, but there are over one hundred new pages of great information to read. What used to be a 254 page book is now a whopping 376 pages. Awesome!! You can bet that I was thrilled to be asked to review the new edition. I couldn't wait to get my hands on the new edition and check out all the wonderful, enriching information contained between the covers.

Discipleship, Whole Books, and Real Life!
Wholehearted Christian Education for ages 4-14
by Clay and Sally Clarkson

Can I tell you that I was absolutely NOT disappointed one bit? It's not often that your high expectations are completely met or exceeded, but in this case, mine were. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Clarkson for rising to the challenge again. I hope you know that I would never purposefully endorse a product that I do not like, and I also want you to know that my enthusiasm over this book is for nobody's benefit but yours. I am hoping that you will read this review and go and buy a copy of this book for yourself and be able enjoy all of the life-impacting benefits that reading and understanding the content of this book will have on your family. 

I could just go on and on about how I love this book, but I would rather tell you a bit about why I find that it is the ideal book for nearly any Christian homeschooler.

Reasons why I LOVE this book:
  1. This book not only covers important how-to's about homeschooling, it covers vital Biblical instructions on how to live LIFE. It is divided into four main sections: Home, Learning, Living, and Methods. Each one is a treasure trove of hard-hitting, plain-speaking, on-target need-to-know information about living a whole-hearted lifestyle. Every section is filled with tidbits, advice, and reminders about things that will help you bring your family together in a lifestyle of godly education and learning. The Clarksons explore more than just home education...they explore growing home-based relationships, developing a learning lifestyle, using effective parenting techniques, choosing the right books for your family, organizing your home, developing your family's ideal homeschooling method, locating resources, managing time, finding support, discipling through Bible studies, identifying your child's gifts, and much, much more. See the Table of Contents online HERE.
  2. The Whole-Hearted learning lifestyle is NOT another curriculum or prescripted method of homeschooling that must be followed exactly to produce good results. Let me share a few excerpts from the Introduction of the book that explain this more effectively:
    • WholeHearted Learning, as described in the rest of this book, is not meant to be an educational program that you implement and maintain, as though we have the only right way to homeschool. We are very comfortable saying that what is right for one family may not be right for another. How we express WholeHearted Learning in our home will be, and in fact should be, different from how you express it in yours.
    • God has given you all you need to train and educate your children at home---it's in real books, real life, and real relationships. We want to equip you and other home-educating parents to homeschool with confidence in yourself, in your home, and in God, with a minimum of curricular safety nets. We simply want to come alongside your family and share some of the things we have learned. You can take it from there.
    • Our goal in this book is uncomplicated: to give you a larger vision for what God can do in your home and to provide a model of home education that gives you the freedom to follow the Holy Spirit for what your children need most. WholeHearted Learning is simply cooperating with God's eternal design for your family, home, and children.
  3. Another thing I love about this book is that every one or two page spread is a mini-topic that is a complete lesson in and of itself, applicable in its own right, separate from the rest of the chapter, yet integrated at the same time. What I mean by that is that each smaller section, or chunk, of wisdom, can be taken one 1 or 2 page bite at a time, so you can read it, digest it, understand and integrate it completely WITHOUT having to read an entire fifty page chapter. If I wanted to, I could read one section a day or a week and still have PLENTY to think about. I don't have to start at page one and read all the way through. You can see what I mean by checking out the sample chapter onlineIf I am struggling with learning styles, I can find the section on learning styles and read the first few pages about them to get a fantastic overview of what learning styles mean. Then, if I want more information later, I can read a few pages about modes of thinking, how to live with different learning styles, instructions for determining learning styles, how to teach to different learning styles, specific sections on each learning style, and much more. 
  4. Each part is a lesson on its own, or the whole chapter can be read together as a detailed instruction set on learning styles.                  
    • Most sections (and I mean the 1-2 page sections on smaller topics) have a section at the bottom of one page called "In Our Home" in which the Clarksons share their learning experiences and personal evidences of God's providence throughout their homeschooling journey. I found these anecdotes to be one of my most appreciated parts of the book. I like to hear about the journey of other homeschoolers and parents (perhaps since I never had a mentor), and find that this helps me consider my own situation and either challenges me or affirms decisions my husband and I have made on our own journey.
    • The final three sections of the book include forty pages of recommended book lists and reproducible forms for you to use in your homeschool. They make a nice starting point for new homeschoolers, and perhaps offer some new ideas for seasoned veterans.
There is so much more I could say about this book, but I think you probably get the idea by now that I think it is a must-have for every home educating family (and much of what is in this book will apply to families who choose to send their children to schools, public or private, because education really does begin at home, whether you formally school there or not). 

PLEASE, if you are like me and like having a new book on home education every so often, make this one your next purchase. If you are the sort of person who avoids buying homeschooling books because they are usually so opinionated about their particular method of homeschooling that it annoys you, buy this is not like that. You will learn SO much from it which can be applied to any sort of home education, from Charlotte Mason to Classical Education to Unit Studies. 

If you are just thinking about homeschooling and don't know where to start...this is it. Buy this book as soon as you can, set it on your bedside table, and read and pray through it little by little. Share this book with your spouse, implement bits and pieces little by little, and you will be AMAZED at the difference this one book can make in your home educating journey (along with your Bible, of course). If you have a friend who is considering homeschooling and you want to buy them a book that will encourage and inspire them, choose this one to be your Christmas gift to that friend. If you purchase books for your public or church library, and they do not already have this book, add it to the next order list. It will bless MANY lives. I am certain of it.
  • If you would like to see what my Crewmates thought of this book, check out their links on the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.


Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book Educating the WholeHearted Child for the purposes of reviewing it here on my blog. The opinions you read here about this book are my own, and arise from my own reading of this book and experiences with it. I would not recommend it if I did not truly believe it was a quality product. If you have questions regarding anything I have said about this product, please feel free to contact me or comment on this post. Thank you.

Monday, October 17, 2011

To Buy or Not to Buy, That is the Question

"How do you budget for your homeschooling?"

When I talk to people who are considering homeschooling for the first time, one of the most common things I am asked is not the cliched "What about socialization?" question, but rather "Isn't homeschooling expensive?"

My answer to that question varies, because there are many factors that impact whether or not homeschooling is costly. First of all, you must consider whether you have time and experience (or the time and desire to learn) to invest in planning and developing your own curriculum and resources. If you have plenty of time, a willingness to work diligently on finding free or inexpensive resources, and the confidence to decide what works best for your students and thus come up with something that works for all of you, then you will find that homeschooling isn't all that expensive after all. There are plenty of free resources on the Internet these days, a plethora of free or inexpensive community resources out there (such as the library and local recreation facility), and a lot can be accomplished without getting complicated. For more ideas on free (or almost free) resources, check out my post on How to Homeschool for Free (or at least inexpensively)!

If you are new to homeschooling and/or lack time or experience for planning on your own to use free and/or inexpensive resources, or if you have multiple ages, many differing levels of students, college-bound students in the upper levels who require more expensive books, or special needs children who all seem to require something different, you may find that homeschooling can be a bit pricier for you than the parent with just one or two young students who are happy with simple workbooks and some magnetic letters and play doh. However, that does not mean that homeschooling will be beyond your means and drain your budget dry. There are many ways to stretch a tight budget, from sharing curricula (through a co-op or just with a friend), buying used materials, using online resources (like those found on my homeschool-for-free site), or simply using what is available for check out at your local library.

It was almost simpler to take the plunge into homeschooling back in the days when there were limited resources and what there was available was geared towards a classroom environment, so it wasn't always appealing to a home educator who wanted something different for their child. These days there are so many good resources available for purchase that while I LOVE curriculum fairs and resource catalogs as much as the next homeschooling parent (who is a curriculum junkie), sometimes the ready availability of something to fit just about every learning style that promises to work for this reluctant learner and that learning difficulty, well, it can all be more than a bit overwhelming...and intimidating...and budget breaking.

So what do WE do to avoid homeschooling budget overload and bank account burn out? Well, for the last two years, since we took a Dave Ramsey budgeting course at our church, hubby has been setting aside a certain amount in an account specifically for the kids' education. This is money I have access to and can spend as I see fit, when there is a need or interest that needs addressing. Then it becomes a decision of whether to buy, or to not buy (and find some other method of obtaining a similar resource)...but the choice is OURS and not our budget's.

Right now we tend to use computers a lot in our school. Partly because they are a helpful learning tool, partly because they are a great resource for freebies, and partly because they help me manage four different learners on four different levels at the same time. Last year was a hard year for me with headaches (unfortunately, this one hasn't been much better), so along with the products we reviewed for the TOS Homeschool Crew, we supplemented some areas with online learning (instead of using the money to buy textbooks) such as Time4Learning (which I initially tried for free), Reading Eggs (the Homeschool Buyer's Co-op is having a group buy on this one right now), and Mathletics (also done as a group purchase). That way, on days when I was feeling poorly, I could still feel as if the kids were accomplishing something, and I saved my good moments for doing art activities, reading library books with the little ones, or taking walks outside for nature studies. Tex tried four different online math programs and got a TON of math under his belt as part of the Crew, as well as some excellent writing practice, Latin, and art, all without a lot of expense on our part. The expenses we did incur came from our budgeted funds and did not impact our day to day lives greatly...having to buy something we needed lacked the stress it used to bring.

This year, our plan is similar, though we did spend part of our yearly budget on some resources at the Used Curriculum Fair at our state homeschooling convention. I was able to get a few printed items we will refer to repeatedly throughout the year, such as a used copy of The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock (it is also available free online...if you look at my right sidebar there is a link...but we wanted a print copy to carry outside with us), some manipulatives and learning games, and a few other resource items such as a tabletop easel to hold the art book containing the subject of our picture study for the week (it sits on top of our piano).

I have also picked up some great classical music cds and educational videos on sale at our local "friends of the library" sale, bought a few learning games at the consignment store at the end of the road, and scored some excellent resource books at various used stores like our local thrift stores and used curriculum store. Yes, we likely could have done without many of these items, but since I did have room in my homeschooling materials budget for them, I felt as if I could buy them to enrich our learning was nice to have that freedom!! I did purchase a few things I felt we needed that I didn't have the time to shop around for off of Amazon, like our inflatable globe (for our geography studies) and Tex's Bible study workbook, but the prices were good. When I felt like Tex needed a particular item, but the funds were running low, I took a few books I no longer needed and sold them online to pay for what I did need. It was great!

Last year, I used Christmas gift money to buy a like-new $250 microscope for under $40 at a resale store, and that has sure come in handy this year. We might have been able to use a microscope in previous years, but we were able to live without it just fine until I found a deal I could not pass up. This year, we asked my parents to skip buying toys for some of the kids' birthdays and to invest in a museum membership instead. My grandmother always buys my kids magazines (which we use for school) for Christmas. They love getting mail with their names on it every month! Best of all, my hubby did some computer work for a guy he knows and got reimbursed for his time with a Netbook the kids can use for their online classes. Having an extra computer has been a big help!

Due to my headaches, we have maintained the Mathletics and Reading Eggs subscriptions (I also save when I can on groceries and clothing with coupons and put the savings away for any school-related items we might need), but a lot of the materials we are using this year come from previous years of making wise purchases and gathering all the existing materials together with library requests and online freebie finds to make an extensive unit with the focus of studying ancient history and cultures. (You can see our planned line up at my post on our 2011-2012 schedule...most of the print and manipulative-type resources we are using this year were gathered over time, and most of the online ones were bought using the group buys at Homeschool Buyer's Co-op or free thanks to the Crew). We do pay monthly to subscribe to Netflix as we find the Instant Download feature to be an invaluable supplement to our studies (not to mention helpful on bad migraine days!). 

You will notice I haven't said that we sink a lot all at once into packaged curricula with Teacher's Manuals and minute by minute schedules. I know that some people do prefer to teach that way, and I understand why folks choose to do this (we did this for a few years early on in our homeschooling experience and just aren't there anymore), but we just don't have the money right now to do that for every child, and honestly, I doubt my ability to keep up with it all...we are more free-spirited in our studies...delight-driven and eclectic by nature with plenty of Charlotte Mason in the mix (you can read about our learning style HERE). We do not have a formal classroom homeschool organizational style works in any area of the house, so I guess the fact that our home is our classroom helps us save money, too.

I know that I could probably go cheaper in some of my choices...I could skip buying a particular workbook or online resource and find something available for free off the Internet, but sometimes weighing the benefits of the convenience of having a resource right away, with no effort on my part, makes a purchase worth it, since the money is in the budget for that purpose anyway. Other times, we find we just need to skip doing something that looks like fun, or find some more creative (and labor intensive) way to do it, but with a bit of innovation and wise-decision making it all works out in the end.

We don't always go on every interesting-looking field trip...we wait for the fun and budget-friendly ones instead. We enjoy simple school activities like nature studies which require little more than a decent notebook and some colored pencils, and I am teaching Ladybug piano on our old upright until she seems ready for formal teaching, then I will see if my mom will take over, or perhaps see whether the neighbor's talented daughter might give us a good deal on some introductory lessons. I have started giving the kids riding lessons each week (instead of just "pony rides"), and Ladybug and Cowboy are absolutely loving it.

My kids aren't in every club, sport, or activity that is available...I tend to wait until there is an obvious gifting or interest before investing money into developing it...and I think that is fine. It works for us. They are content with playing outside with each other and with their friends at church. Tex and Bubba played Upward ball when they were younger, and perhaps Cowboy and Boo will, too, when the time comes. There is no need at this point to run the younger ones to gymnastics lessons twice a week since we have a jungle gym and a trampoline in our backyard. Instead, I have the pleasure of watching them have fun with each other (and visiting friends) and hearing their enthusiastic laughter day after day. I like it that way.

All that said, I know I haven't given you specifics of what we have spent this year monetarily, but I hope I have encouraged you that by careful planning, budgeting, and being creative, you will find that homeschooling is not something that will break the bank. Whether you decide to buy a packaged curriculum, or come up with your own for free, well-planned-for homeschooling will add many rich experiences to the bank account that makes up the childhood memories of your children, and whatever you spend, a lot or a little, will be multiplied exponentially and become priceless. You can't put a value on your investment of love and time. It is worth more than words can say, so go and spend a little, or if you are able and feel you must, spend a lot, but remember to keep the focus where it belongs...on the kids, not the curriculum.



Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sermon Sunday---The Key to Making Wise Decisions

A perennial favorite of our family's is Dr. Charles Stanley of In Touch Ministries. Since I have sick children who needed to stay home from church today, I sat and rocked them while watching this excellent sermon of Dr. Stanley's on how to live by principle instead of preference. He highlights the life and choices of Daniel, and how his adherence to the principles he was taught by his parents had an incredible and lasting influence on generations of individuals, spanning from back then until now. Daniel's convictions carried him through the reigns of four different rulers, and earned him much respect. It really makes you think about what influence you are having, on whom you are having it, and what fruit will grow from the seeds you have planted.

I love Dr. Stanley's Life Principles series, and this sermon is an worthy supplement to it. Every adult should watch this sermon, and every parent should watch it with their kids. Firefly is one of my two sickies (she is four..Boo, age two, is the other who is sick), and she asked me probing questions and definitely got something out of the talk (I didn't even realize she was listening!), so I imagine children of most ages will be able to understand it, just like Firefly did.

Here are the Life Principles Notes for this sermon. Here is a detailed Bible study of the topic Making Wise Decisions, if you'd like to go deeper.

I pray that you and your family are blessed by the sermon...I know I was.

The Key to Making Wise Decisions by Dr. Charles Stanley

Have a blessed Sunday,


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Visualize Latin Success With Visual Latin

"Visual Latin is a combination of short videos and exercises that work together to teach your children (or you) Latin. The curriculum is designed so that it requires no knowledge of Latin either by the student or the parent administering the class. Just hit play and start learning."  (from the site)

Imagine your student walking up to you one morning and saying, "I love Latin." 

Did your jaw just drop? Mine did. Or is that still not enough for you? Then listen to the rest.

"This guy teaches Latin so I can understand it. He makes me feel like I already speak the language. When I am working on this class I feel really smart."

That really got  me. That is what Tex actually said to me a week or so ago when he was working on lesson six of Visual Latin with Dwane Thomas as his video teacher.Tex had been doing Visual Latin for a few weeks, and laughing his way through nearly every lesson. I completed the first few lessons with him, so I could try them out, plus I figured he might need the help since Latin can be intimidating at the best of times.
However, there was nothing intimidating about this Latin program. 

Every step of the way, both Tex and I felt able to do whatever was asked, were inspired to delve deeper into our own language, and stayed excited to try just one lesson more. Can I say anything else to express how much we enjoyed this program? I truly believe that Tex's statement above says it all. We've tried other Latin programs, and liked them just fine, but always felt as if, well, Latin was a bit more than we were prepared to take on. Not so with this amazing program.

From the beginning, Visual Latin instills in you a desire to learn more, to do more, to go farther in your studies because you feel like you CAN. A lot of that feeling is the result of the relaxed teaching style of Dwane Thomas. Through his jokes, his humorous example sentences, and even his mistakes (which we all make from time to time, right?), he helps instill even more than a can-do attitude in your kids...he encourages in them a want-to-do attitude...a delight in learning.

I think the best way for you to understand about Dwane's teaching style and how his classes work is to try it out for yourself. You can view an entire class on his site, complete with printable pdf, and you can even sign up for four free introductory lessons.

Here is part of the first lesson on verbs. You will see how simple it seems, how immediately you get into using the language, how he seamlessly helps you draw connections with your own language, and how he is just a regular guy (like you are a regular person, too) when he makes a mistake and keeps on going...I find it much easier to learn from someone who isn't perfect (but is perfectly suited to teaching!). At the end of the video, you are directed to the worksheet, and when that is completed, you will watch the next video HERE.

Visual Latin | Grammar from Compass Cinema on Vimeo.

You can read more about the instructor, Dwane Thomas, and see what some other students have thought about the program HERE or check out "All the Specs in One Place" to find out about the Scope and Sequence, classes offered (Latin I and II), and formats available for each of the courses (at this time Visual Latin is available as a download for your computer or iPod, or as a DVD).

You can check out the prices at the Compass Store, plus score a few free downloads, too. Each of the two levels comes in three sections for a total of thirty lessons. A download of ten lessons (plus pdf worksheets) will cost you $25.00, while a DVD of the same materials will run you $30.00. The lessons are appropriate for a wide variety of ages, from about age nine to adult (I enjoyed them, for sure!), so this investment will be a solid one for your entire family. 

I highly recommend this product. The only thing I can think of to tell you that might impress upon you how highly we did think of this product is to mention that we will be ordering the next ten lessons of Visual Latin next week ourselves because Tex asked me, "Mom, I really want to keep doing this. Can we get some more lessons when the review is over?" Do you think I said anything but a resounding and enthusiastic "Yes!"? Not a chance. Maybe we will see you over at the Compass Store...

If you need more convincing that this is the best language product you will see all year, then head on over to the Homeschool Crew Blog and check out a few more of my Crewmates' reviews HERE.



Disclaimer: We received the first ten lessons of Visual Latin (and the accompanying worksheets) for free for the purposes of reviewing this product here on my blog. The opinions and experiences you read here are my own and those of my family members. I do not guarantee or expect that your experiences will be exactly the same as mine, but you can rest assured that you are reading our honest thoughts about this product.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Getting Organized and Loving It!!

The Homeschool Mother's Journal
    This post is linked to The Homeschool Mother’s Journal 

The Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Favorite Resource This Week at Learning ALL the Time

Favorite Resource This Week

Make sure you hop over to see what other homeschool moms did this week!
In my life this weekBoo is finally recovering from being sick. Yay! It has been a long three weeks of him being under the weather. I am feeling better, too. The other kids all seem to be fine, except for Ladybug, who has allergy eyes today, and sniffles. 

Our good friends, Lady L. and her five wonderful kids, came over on Wednesday for a visit and to check out what was new on the Bookmobile. Tex always enjoys recommending books for his friends to read (since he reads so much...maybe he will be a librarian someday?), and he has them hooked on the Percy Jackson series from Rick Riordian. In fact, he received Son of Neptune, the newest book in the second series, from his brilliant mom (me!) for his birthday, finished it in under 24 hours, and then passed it on to me (and I finished it in about two days...being sick is good for catching up on reading). They are fun books, but if you have a problem with your older kids reading fantasy, or about obviously imaginary Greek and Roman "gods," then you should skip them (but you will be missing out on some good laughs!).

Having a nice time with Briar Rose, or Rosie, 
our Shetland-Quarter Horse baby pony.
Yeah, go ahead, laugh if you want. 
It IS an unlikely combination...
But she is adorable, and sweet, too.

In our homeschool this week…The younger group got to read a book about ponds and they drew pictures of what they read about. We watched a video on Egypt together, read a book about the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, made a cartouche necklace, wrote letters to the grandmas and great-grandmas, and started working on Math Mammoth, which we are reviewing. They also played with their Duplo Legos quite a bit, and spent plenty of time playing outside with their bikes, the baby pony, and their new sidewalk chalk and bubbles. 

Tex is loving his new (birthday gift/school) computer and accessories.

Tex finished up the last of his ten lessons of Visual Latin (another review item), set up his new printer, finished putting together his notebook (to keep all his reading records, math charts, worksheets, etc. in), started working on the "Alice 2.2" programming lessons, wrote some thank you notes, caught up on his Exploring Creation with Physical Science experiments, and did plenty of Khan Academy. He LOVES his new laptop. So do I. I hope it is my turn to get a new one next...Oh yeah, and Tex and I read Son of Neptune. Does that count for school?

Bubble time!!

Boo was obviously feeling better because he repeatedly got into trouble by climbing places he should not have been to get things he should not have played with. This morning he climbed to get into our school drawers and got some scissors (blunt primary ones) and cut a pillow cover I had quilted years ago. Sigh. What am I going to do with him????

What’s working for us...Nanny helped us rearrange the boys' room downstairs so that two desks (with two computers on them) fit in it now. A third computer (the netbook) sits on the cedar trunk by the bed with a padded footstool for a chair, so all three of the Amigos can do their online schoolwork at the same time. It is much more efficient and helps me to be able to get and keep them on task more easily. Plus, they finish the online stuff (Mathletics, Reading Eggs, some review items) before lunch so that after lunch we can do our "fun" and "creative" together activities for an hour or so (and we don't even start "school" until ten most days since morning chores take a while, and I am not getting up at the crack of dawn to do them). Thanks for the help, Mom!

Cowboy after eating chocolate ice cream. 
Thank goodness Zote soap works so well!

Thoughts I have…If I could just get "caught up," I think our days would go pretty smoothly and I might start having more fun instead of always feeling behind. I know the "to do list" will never be empty, but if it would just get to fewer than a dozen important items...
Ladybug is always hard at work, even when it is fun work.
She's just a hard worker. What a blessing.

My favorite thing this week was…Watching the kids be so excited over being able to do all their work at one time, and then seeing how Ladybug rose to the occasion and acted as helper whenever I was busy doing kitchen chores, or laundry, or something. Great job, sweetie! You are a gem!!

I am inspired by…Cindy Rushton. I discovered her seminars when we moved here and I was on limited activity (pregnant with Boo). Her peppy and heartfelt talks cheered me up, and I felt like I had a friend in the room with me. She's having a sale this week on her notebooking set, which is great, if you want to find out more about it and don't have many printables of your own already. Her "brain in a binder" is awesome (and it is included in the set that is for sale). She's featured on Homeschool Freebie of the Day today, so head over for a freebie and check out her sale! You can get more freebie audio lectures from Cindy HERE.
 Firefly is ready for church...such a pretty and sweet four-year-old big girl!

My favorite homeschooling resource this week…I had fun exploring links for mini-offices this week, and printed up several things I found links to on this Squidoo lens about mini-offices. The kids have a mini-office hanging on their school area bulletin board now, and have loved referring to it since I posted it. Give a mini-office a try!! I'd love to have you share any links to mini-office posts you may have, or favorite resources for your own, if you have time to  leave a comment. Thanks!

Have a blessed week,

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