Monday, May 30, 2011

Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life

I just read the book Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life by Jenna Woginrich. It is the true story of a city-working, house-renting, homesteading wanting young woman and it is utterly charming, and is full of fun anecdotes and useful advice.

The book covers many topics: making your own clothing, training dogs to pull, buying used instead of new, baking bread, establishing a beehive,  raising chickens and  angora rabbits, growing your own food, and playing mountain music. I've had an enjoyable evening and quite a few laughs out of this one. I think I am going to try out her pattern for making "green" grocery bags out of old tee-shirts

Friday, May 27, 2011

Read for the Heart

Read any good books lately? I have. Quite a few, in fact. It all started when I signed up for a graduate class called Motivating Students to Read (for the purposes of maintaining my certification as a teacher in my home state). The two texts for the course, The Book Whisperer and Readicide were actually very enlightening. I say "actually" because I am a homeschooler and the course is, of course, geared towards the public school teacher so I wan't expecting much I could apply to our situation. Instead, to my astonishment, I discovered that there are members of the public school community now who are decrying the common tendency to "teach to the test"

Talking About Books With Children

Yes, I should be working on my graduate classes. They are due (to be postmarked) by Tuesday. Boo's second birthday is Monday, so I'd like to be finished before then, but still, as I proofread these conversations with my kids (that were required for my Motivating Readers class), I couldn't help but smile and want to share them. I wondered, have you talked with your kids about books lately? I don't mean have you had them narrate back the plot to you, or have you asked them to tell you what the deeper meaning was, or to identify the main character, but have you talked with them about how they FEEL about books?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

It's a busy week for Mom, as she races to the finish line, trying to complete the Herculean task of doing two graduate (online) courses in just six weeks. A total of twenty-eight lessons finished (with five to seven tasks to do for each) and six quizzes taken. Now just two final papers, three to five pages long each (and about ten questions to answer in each one). Aaaah. Can she do it? Tune in next week and see.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Daddy's Home! Mommy's Working...Part Two

As promised, here is the story of Saturday during "Daddy's Week Off" while Mommy frantically tries to finish her grad classes for recertification.

Good Idea Number One: Do Something Educational

Daddy heard that it was going to be Marine Science Day at the local marine science center and packed up the kids bright and early to see the parade of marine life, then off to do fun and somewhat icky activities (from my perspective). Don't ask me what is in the jars, or what that dead thing is on the table. I am just glad it was Daddy who got the pleasure of taking them on this field trip!! 

 Lots of interesting things to see...somehow I am not sure Ladybug is as thrilled about it as Cowboy is.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Daddy's Home! Mommy's Working...

The kids had a lot of fun this week. Daddy made sure all the kids got to do something special with him ( or even something ordinary, but being with Daddy made it special), while I worked frantically on my two graduate classes. I appreciated the time to work distraction free at the library, and the kids made some happy memories with Daddy.

On Monday, I worked at the library all day and Daddy took the two girls shopping and spent some of his birthday money buying each of them a new summer outfit. In a household where "new" usually means "new to us" (ie. from the thrift or consignment store), getting a new outfit was something special. They all couldn't wait to show me their new duds, so they surprised me at the library to show them off. It was a pleasant break, and very sweet to see the girls so appreciative and excited over something so simple.

The next day, Daddy took Cowboy with him to Home Depot and the Dump. Exciting. Well, apparently, Cowboy thought it was GREAT. There's no doubt in my mind that there are real differences between boys and girls.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Wonderful WonderMaps

"Maps could become your favorite part of teaching." Bright Ideas Press website

I love being on the TOS Crew. As I have freely admitted before, I am a curriculum junkie. I just love trying out new stuff. I have this insatiable curiosity about innovative ideas and different ways of doing things, and I am always interested in finding out what else is out there, even if what I have at home (or available on the Internet) is perfectly fine. 

Well, being on the TOS Crew is just about as perfect a "job" you could think up for me because not only do I get to see all sorts of amazing new curriculum and educational products, I also get to tell you my opinions about them, and don't we all just love to say what we are thinking? I mean, that's why we blog, right? In any case, I am writing today to tell you that last month I was chosen to try a new product from Bright Ideas Press called WonderMaps, and I am very excited about it.

Wondermaps is a customizable collection of over 350 different maps:  60+ world maps, 60+ US maps, 100 hisorical maps, and 25 Biblical maps.  With nearly endless possibilities, WonderMaps makes it easy to integrate map study into a variety of lessons for a variety of levels of student.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Old Time Radio...Our Favorite Online Audio Sites

It seems it was just Christmas, yet here we are already halfway through May and heading straight on into summer. I have already seen a few comments on Facebook about the oppressive heat in some places kicking in with a vengeance. Today it is overcast here, following thunderstorms yesterday and last night, with the potential for more in the next few days. Moments like these, when there is a goal that requires solitude for Mom (I am frantically trying to finish the second of two grad classes for re-certification by May 31), I wish it was sunny, and I could kick the kids outside for the day. But alas, today it is WET and were I to send the kids out, they'd be covered in muck in moments, and the next thing you know, it would be me and the whole house covered with mud, too, requiring baths and mopping and more loads of laundry. Normally, I am a "cool" mom and I'd let them go out and jump in puddles to their hearts' content, but today I just can't do it...I have too much to do.

That's when I am very glad for the Internet. Not as a source for games or learning activities, though we have enjoyed those, too, but as a source for free audios the kids can listen to. The kids love to gather in the front room with their blankets and favorite stuffed friends, and listen to audio books. It makes me think of what it must have been like for families back when it was just you and a radio, no TV. I think listening to stories helps develop vocabulary and imagination, and sometimes Mom (or her voice) just needs a break, so...I thought that today I would share some of our favorite audio sites with you.

Here they are, in no particular order:
  • Adventures in Odyssey---our family favorite collection of Christian stories...we want to move to Whit's End!
  • Down Gilead Lane---similar to Odyssey, but different folks and a different town 
  • Your Story Hour ---we started listening to the Ernest Shakleton one today. It is about his adventures crossing Antarctica, and is both fun and fascinating!
  • Paws and Tales---Christian stories, for younger kids
  • My Audio School ---a wonderful resource...this is the awesome list of free titles, but it is only $14.95 a year to subscribe for hundreds more!
  • Books Should Be Free---great selection of classics like Pollyanna
  • Kiddie Records Weekly----old vinyl children's records here, some real treasures... the stories bring back memories of childhood
  • Homeschool Radio Shows---changes weekly/monthly, old timey shows
  • Storynory---fairy tales and cute stories
  • Reading Well---Landmark book titles, historic stories
I hope your family will enjoy exploring these sites. All of these sites and a few more are archived at my homeschool-for-free site.



Monday, May 9, 2011

MonkiSee Review

I've had lots of opportunities this year to review fascinating, interesting, entertaining, and useful products. This one is no exception. It definitely entertained my little ones! They thought the monkeys, Skip and Howie, were adorable and funny. 

MonkiSee is an entertaining program designed for children ages 3 months old to four years of age. It is intended to teach children to read using repetition of sight words.  The thirty minute videos introduce babies to words for body parts, colors, shapes, and much more using puppets, colorful images, poetry, and songs. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Reading Mother

Story Time with Nanny on the Bookmobile

The Reading Mother

I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea.
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth;
"Blackbirds" stowed in the hold beneath.
I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.
I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness lent with his final breath.
I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
Stories that stir with an upward touch.
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!
You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be --
I had a Mother who read to me.

by Stricklan Gillilan

You can read anywhere...even in the kitchen!

I had a mother who read to me. 

Now she reads to my kids.
Nanny's Book Basket

Thank you, Mom, for all of the worlds 
you put into my hands, and theirs.

We love you

Happy Mother's Day.



Friday, May 6, 2011

Round Up the Kids---It's Story Time!

Do you have a child who falls asleep dreaming of horses, the Old West, cowboys, ponies, farm animals, or ranch living? Do you appreciate read-alouds that draw your kids in and offer FREE resources to flesh out information gained through the reading? Do you plan to teach American History this year, or just plain need some suggestions for books that will be good, clean, moral AND fun for all ages?

Well, look no further. 
I have just the series for you to consider. 

I recently had the opportunity to review one of the Circle C Beginnings books by Susan K. Marlow and Kregel Publishers. We were sent a copy of Andi's Indian Summer. It is second in a series of four books targeted at ages 6-8. These books are written from the point of view of a young Andi (age 6), who also appears (age 12) in the series of six Circle C Adventures books (for ages 9-14).

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Books I Should Have Read in School, But Didn't

Attention readers: Here is a link up you might want to try, especially with summer on the way and the potential of finding yourself lying on a beach with a good book, or resting in a hammock with a good book, or hiding in your bathroom with a good book. >gasp!< Did I really say that?  Well, many of us are moms, and sometimes our choices of pleasure reading time are limited. If this describes you, you will know what I mean.

In any case, as my grad class is reassuring me, it really IS in our students' best interests for us to read, too. In front of them. With them. Not just to them. Read alouds are important, too, but reading alongside one another shows your kids that you value reading for YOURSELF. For your sake, not just theirs.

So give some thought this spring, as we draw closer to those dog days of summer, what will you do with your spare time? Another load of laundry? Catch up on your sewing? Watch a show you missed on hulu? Check in with your Mommy pals on Facebook? Try another recipe? Organize your junk drawer? Well, some of those things are good. All are okay, given the time to do them. But in our busy lives, we have to choose sometimes...better over good, and best over better.

What is the BEST choice? Only you will know that. It might change from day to day. But seriously, give some thought this week to what you can do to be an example of one who LOVES to read. What can you do to model to your kids that reading is important, interesting, and FUN? 

Maybe, like me, you will see this link and think about all those books you were supposed to read for class, but were too busy reading the stuff you liked, to read along with the teacher in a book that someone else chose. Or maybe you just weren't ever offered the book, but you know it is a classic, and every time someone mentions how they just LOVED it, you feel kind of, well, out of the know. Think on those things and see if you can come up with a list like I did, then post it and link up.

You have until the end of the year. That is still a long way away. But don't wait too long because it seems to me that it was just Christmas a few weeks ago...time sure does fly.

Here is my list. I am going to try for twelve books I should have read, but never did, for whatever reason. If you read twelve, you achieve the "College Professor" level. You can choose as few as two (then you will be a "High School Graduate"...LOL). Since I couldn't whittle my list down to twelve, I wrote down all the ones I thought I ought to finally read, but my goal will be to read just twelve of these. I will have to see which ones I choose. Maybe I'll even read a few extras.

I chose mostly children's books because that's what I am interested in right now, but you can also choose picture books from younger childhood days to harder tomes from college classes. It's up to you. 

You will see these appear on my Books I am Reading section of my right sidebar as I add them to my monthly reading. I will also add them to the Reading Aloud Challenge posts as I get through each one...but don't expect to see anything until June, since I will be reading grad course books until then. Bah!

Here Goes...
  1. Anne of Green Gables (I love the TV series! That doesn't count, though, does it?)
  2. Caddie Woodlawn
  3. Number the Stars (gasp! yes, I never did read this one...oooops.)
  4. The Whipping Boy
  5. Walk Two Moons
  6. The Wizard of Oz
  7. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (I know, I should have gotten to this one)
  8. Around the World in 80 Days
  9. James and the Giant Peach
  10. The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle
  11. Mary Poppins
  12. Peter Pan
  13. The Hiding Place (oh, you are shocked at me now, aren't you?)
  14. The Princess and the Goblin
  15. The Door in the Wall
  16. Adam of the Road
  17. Alice in Wonderland
  18. Julie of the Wolves
  19. Invincible Louisa
  20. Elsie Dinsmore (I tried reading it a few months back, but never had time)
That's my list. Admittedly, I have read parts of some of these, but I have never sat down and read them the whole way through, all at once. So, for the sake of my students who will probably be reading these, and for my own enrichment (and to relieve the guilt!), I am going to try to read these by the end of 2011.

For ideas on what you might have missed and want to read, you can head over to Goodreads and set up a FREE! account (this might be a good summer project for your kids, too). Then you can generate all sorts of lists by topic and the choices are endlessly fascinating. 

Random thought: I think I'd be fine living in a library. Have you ever read From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler? Well, the kids in that book ran away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is a great book (they solve a mystery while they are there). I've decided that if I ever ran away, I'd run to a library instead of a museum. More good books to read, and more comfortable furniture. Or maybe a Barnes and Noble...because they have lattes and cinnamon rolls, too. Happy reading, everyone!

check out goodreads

I hope you join me on this reading adventure. Leave me a comment if you decide to give it a try.



Monday, May 2, 2011

Our Home, Our Schoolroom

One thing I love about homeschooling is that it is not one-size-fits-all. There is no one "right" way to homeschool, or a "wrong" way (well, ignoring your kids and letting them run wild all over the neighborhood would be wrong, but I don't know any homeschooling families who condone that!). In fact, year to year, place to place, my homeschooling style and location has changed to fit our family's needs.

When we first started homeschooling, we were all a bit nervous about it, in spite of the fact that I'm a trained and licensed teacher, so we went for a "boxed" curriculum, and settled in every day with my one student sitting at a desk where I could keep track of his progress. This worked well for a year, then we both got tired of it (both the boxed curriculum and the desk!) and moved on to sitting wherever was comfortable, at the eating bar, in the living room, in the den in front of the computer, sometimes even at that desk. We supplemented our curriculum with lots of extras, took Fridays off for field trips, family visits, or fun, and in general learned to RELAX.

Then we moved on to Florida, added several family members, gained a HUGE galley-style kitchen, and discovered the pleasures of making the kitchen area the center of the home. Our table was large and sturdy, the secondary counter stretched endlessly along one wall and was filled one year with a tank full of tadpoles we rescued from a puddle, two incubators (one for chicks and one for ducklings that we hatched for a friend), and random stacks of books. We kept our materials in the cabinets under that counter, and I remember watching Bubba complete several dissections standing at that counter, with Tex looking on. They'd always head outside on the covered patio if the experiment was predicted to be messy, and I have fun pictures of the two of them in goggles watching test tubes bubble over with whatever it was they'd put in them (Bubba was using Apologia at the time).

We were still fairly plugged into textbooks, and even tried a few computer and video classes. Our county offered a day class which was taught at the local zoo (about animals) and we tried that for a year or so. Tex and Bubba were the only ones old enough to do this, so on that day I had extra time to sit with the little ones and read to them. I had books galore, just like I do now, but our front room was so large it became my "library" and we fit ten bookshelves, three chairs, a desk with a computer, and the piano into it. It was cozy and comfortable, and full of light. All the kids spent plenty of time reading in there. I sure do miss that room.

Then, about a year into our stay in Pensacola, we got the opportunity to buy a horse (Jake). The opportunity was obviously blessed by God (I'll have to share the story sometime), and we started spending more time away from the house and outside (we did not keep the horse on our property at that point). I was also asked to help start a Christian homeschooling co-op, and we did that one day a week (plus another at home for planning, usually). Bubba was heavily involved in Boy Scouts, homeschooling group activities, and with helping his dad coach Tex's Upward teams. We still used our textbooks, but things were starting to change. We were learning more lessons on being more relaxed and ultimately, being more flexible. Then our last year there, after surviving Ivan, Dennis, and Katrina (hurricanes, that is, two of which damaged our home), and spending plenty time on the road visiting relatives during the resulting power outages (and having many wonderful, educational field trips!), or sending the menfolk off to help with repairs in various cities, Bubba was asked to do a five week long drama mission trip, which tanked the rest of our textbook plans for the year.

When he got back from that, he started apprenticing with a farrier who trained horses and ran a stable, so his classroom became a barn. I still worked with Tex at home, but I am telling you honestly, by this time, if we read a bunch of books (usually in the hammock outside) and did some handwriting and math (at the kitchen table), I was happy with the accomplishments for the day (our co-op covered history, geography, art, creative writing, and science). I had two toddlers at the time, Hubby was gone for a year, and we were trying to sell our house in a poor market. To top that off, I was newly expecting (Christmas visit and gift from Hubby, I guess!) and tired all the time.

Fast forward to our next move, which was to my parents' house while we looked for a farm to love. I forget how long we were there, but it wasn't a typical classroom, that's for sure. My dad worked on math with Bubba, usually on their front porch, sometimes in a study room at the nearby library, or by their computer. Tex was a bit more traditional, and did most of his work at a table my mother set up in their dining room (they got rid of their dining room table years ago and made it a sitting room since they eat in their kitchen). We spent a lot of time driving back and forth between our new home (which needed a lot of work) and their house, which was about an hour drive each way. We listened to MANY audio books together, and Ladybug and Cowboy watched the Leapfrog videos enough times in the car that they both knew all their letters and letter sounds in just a few months (ages 2 and 4). I think that's called "car-schooling" these days.

 We moved to the newly renovated, but not completely finished house, and hubby promptly fell off the barn roof and broke both feet. I was expecting Boo, and had complications which limited me to a chair in the small master bedroom for the last several months of that pregnancy (most of the time, anyway). The little ones and I spent a lot of time on YouTube singing praise songs together, learning signs, practicing the days of the week, months of the year, etc., and also writing some books together about our family. We definitely read out loud a lot. 

Bubba did his work in his room, when he wasn't working with another farrier or earning money for farrier's school by working at his own lawncare business. Tex did his work at the table and spent plenty of time outside with the little ones. Bubba finished up school shortly after Boo was born and left to go to farrier training in the mountains, then moved in with my folks (I guess it got too crowded for him at Blessing Farm...LOL).

After the baby was born, I got smart and relocated our master bedroom to the largest room upstairs (out of three bedrooms in the house) since Bubba was gone and Tex certainly did not need the biggest room to himself. It turned out there was plenty of room in there for the baby's small crib, two desks, two computers, and several comfy chairs, in addition to our bed and dressers. I have since then set up a place for reading in an alcove, a wall on which to display our marker-boards and calendars, and Hubby has installed several shelving units for books. That one addition (the bookshelves) has helped immensely.

If you visited our house today to see where we homeschool, if it is a rainy, cold, or overly hot day, you will likely find me with the Three Amigos and Boo upstairs, with two of the Amigos working on their computer work (which is suiting us during this season as I deal with some health issues and graduate courses for recertification), or the lot of us in my oversized chair reading aloud, or clustered around the computer watching something educational on Netflix (or a new favorite of theirs, JellyTelly). Tex usually works on his computer downstairs, or reads in the living room.

We use the dining room table for special projects and artwork. The Lego table is a popular place to hang out. The Bookmobile comes twice a month. Other times we head out to the library, and of course there is church. We also go on interesting field trips from time to time, when the costs are low and my energy is high. Hubby even is able to help by taking a kid or two on a field trip now and again, while I stay home with the others.

On nice days you can find everyone outside, sometimes riding the horses or playing with the dogs or chasing chickens (and hunting for eggs!). Ladybug loves to walk around with her Nature Notebook and birdwatch. Cowboy loves to find worms, insects, and other hapless creatures to put into his bug habitat to watch for a while (sometimes he sucks them up with his bug vaccuum!). If he forgets to release them, then Ladybug gets another addition for her dead bug collection. She collects dead bugs, Cowboy collects rocks, and Tex collects fossils and arrowheads. Firefly tends towards collecting flowers. Boo collects kisses.
What they do the most is play with each other, laugh, learn, live, and love. We sometimes do Bible sitting close on the swing outside, other times it's upstairs snuggled in bed. Tex loves to mow (which is good since we have fifteen acres) and will hurry through his classes so he can get outside to work. The little ones do sometimes get "stuck" in the back room with a Signing Time video if I need them out from underfoot. I occasionally wish we had a "real" classroom so I could set up cool learning stations and have all of our many supplies in easy reach and a set plan for every day, but then again, when I consider that my children see their whole world as their classroom, I tell myself to stop thinking that way and appreciate where we are.

Homeschooling is awesome. I say, go for whatever works for you and your family. What works this year, might not work the next, so stay flexible. Things can change from month to month. One of the best lessons your family can gain from homeschooling is flexibility. Another wonderful lesson is the ability to entertain opportunities that are "out of the box" and out of the classroom. Still another is to set priorities. You are where God has put you, so get done what He wants done in a day, in the place He has given you to do it. Enjoy yourself. Appreciate it.  Lastly, is that because we homeschool, we are all together all day, every day, so we'd better learn to get along with one another, to help each other, and to love one another, and that, I think, is the most important lesson of all. We certainly have a great opportunity to practice that one until we get it, so let's not waste it.



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