Wednesday, March 30, 2011

In a Reading Funk

I don't know what to read!!!!!
I'm not in the mood for anything, but I can't stand not reading anything.
Okay, so I am waiting for Ranger's Apprentice #8 . . . but in the meantime, I need something to read.
I'm looking for something purposeful, but not too heavy (in language or content) because my pregnant mind wants fluff but I don't want to read fluff.  You know what I mean?  I kind of want to read some good parenting/homeschool book but I'm also kind of sick of those right now.  I just want something that will keep me up at night reading!!  You know the kind. 
Give me some ideas.

Monday, March 28, 2011

History Cont.

Thanks for your responses. No, I wasn't planning on using the Story of the World books--I like to create my own curriculum for history, but I was interested in if going chronologically had been effective for you. If we do it, I'd start when Miriam was in 4th grade. I'm glad the SOTW breaks it down well--that would probably be the most challenging part for me. I've heard a lot about Sonlight but haven't even looked at it. I think I will now--literature recommendations are always useful as I do everything I can literature based.

As for math--that program looks really interesting. I am not good at integrating math into a normal day (outside of cooking--and I don't really let the kids cook with me much). I already have a combo that I'm really happy with, so I don't think I'll be changing soon. I talked about it a lot on my homeschool blog, so I'll spare you here.

Since we're talking curriculum--I was going to buy the Rod and Staff Language Arts program for Miriam for next year and their spelling program. Have you used either of those?


I've used Story of the World pretty much from the a guide.  Sometimes I read from the book, but more often I use the literature suggestions in the activity book.  I request as many as I can from the library, plus any others that I can find on the topic that look interesting.  Then when they come I pick and choose.  I might read through SWB's book myself to make sure I have the history straight, and read a snippet that I think the kids will find interesting, but if I do read a chapter, I tend to not read it word for word to them.  I have a lot of supplemental links tagged on my computer.  I've looked for other booklists and whatnot.  I sometimes use the activities in the activity book, but not very often.  My kids like to color while I read to them, so I might photocopy some coloring pages.  I have collected almost the entire SOTW set thanks to my husband who has been hunting ebay/ and paperbackswap for them for years.  I don't use them enough to want to pay full price for them, but I consider them a worthwhile resource.

Other curriculum that I have been impressed with is the Beautiful Feet books.  If I remember correctly, they also move chronologically.   I also have liked Sonlight as a resource.   I found a website that took the Sonlight book recommendations and showed how they could fit into The Story of the World - just another useful reference, as I particularly like how SOTW is broken up.

I'm with you, Andrea, I love history - particularly American.  I have done American History for Kindergarten, and then I do it during the summers also.  I expect my children to study it in depth in high school, but in the meantime I'm filling their heads with the stories!

If you don't want to buy the books, but would appreciate a scope and sequence and/or book suggestions...

Some of my links:

Here's another curriculum idea that intrigued me:

So I guess I wouldn't say that I love SOTW, but I find it incredibly useful, as well as the resources that have been created around it.

As a side note - may I tell you that I purchased a real math curriculum and LOVE it.  Best one I've ever used... Very easy to use and yet very easy to tailor to your child.

For Logan (who is turning 8 soon and in 2nd grade) I have been supplementing with free worksheets printed from to give him extra practice.  He earns much-desired computer game time for each worksheet that he finishes.


I've tried following the Story of the World series, but I'm just really bad at following cirriculums in general and got bored with the readings.  I think the best way to do that, if you're going to do it, is to get the books on CD and just plug them in in the car.  I've done that in the past and the kids got more into it.  Just a thought.  The activity books have some value but also some busywork as well.  You'll just need to take a look at it.  Chronologically is good I guess . . . but I don't think it's necessary until the kids get older.  IMO  I do love the idea of having a timeline of history up on our wall and have tried several ways of doing this . . . but I haven't been consistent with it.  The Book of Centuries from the Tanglewood corebook is my favorite idea for kids getting a picture of chronology.  INTEREST is most important at the younger stages.  What do your kids want to learn about?  Start with that.  I will say that my kids' favorites have been Ancient Egytian stuff and the Medevial ages.  Knights and princesses . . . dead guys and mummies . . . can't go wrong there.  :-)  We are different than the "normal American" apparently, because we are just now getting into American history (I've always touched on it, but next year is when we're going into depth with it).  This year has been our favorite history year, too . . . Real Life Princesses!  The girls have loved it.  So, anyway . . . That was a bunch of babbling about nothing and I don't even know if I answered your question.  :-)  JULIA

Well-Trained Mind: History

I'm just curious if any of you have followed a chronological history program. I haven't. I decide what sounds interesting to me and the kids and then put together a little unit on it. I like the idea of chronological though. I think the authors of the Well-Trained Mind make an excellent point that Americans spend most of their time studying American history and it distorts perspective.

I also know that I like to teach what I know, and what I know is American history.

However, sometimes a girl needs to leave her comfort zone. Maybe I can spend the next year familiarizing myself with ancient history and start in fourth grade and do the four year plan.

I like how she did the sciences along with it--but that might be a bit much for me. We'll see. Good things to think about though.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


I just finished this book, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.  Pretty interesting.  Quick, easy read.  I think my favorite chapters were the ones on baby names, but I also liked the sections on real estate agents and crack dealers.  And no, they are not the same thing.

In other books, I'm reading Flatland somewhat half-heartedly.  It's fine, just not in the mood for it right now.  Finished book nine of Ranger's Apprentice series and can't stand that the 10th book is not available at the library yet.

Hope you are all well.  We are getting a bit too much rain out here in sunny California.  Please share some book suggestions because I need to start a new list!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Note on "Easy" Classics

I used to agree with what Andrea said about not having kids read easier classics, but after having a daughter who has had struggles with reading AND listening to Andrew Pudewa speak on the topic, my views have changed . . . slightly.  Brooklynn listened to the book on CD (real version), The Little Princess, and fell in love with it.  THEN, she watched the movie and loved that, too.  THEN she found an "easy" version of the book at a yard sale and just had to buy it!  And she's reading it.  If I were to "make" her read or wait to read the "real" version, she'd lose a bit of that passion for the story.  So, I think there are appropriate times to have children read the "dumbed down" versions of the stories.  I do not, however, think a parent should read the easy versions aloud.  Kids need to hear the "real" language of a great classic.  I have faith that Brooklynn will eventually read the "real" book simply because of her love for the story and when her physical hindreances finally match her thirst for the real thing.  And that's what Pudewa said.  An older child/person will remember loving the story as a child and be drawn to read the "real" thing.  Again, I still think there's a time and a place, but I wouldn't disregard them completely.  Just my thoughts.  :-)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Well-Trained Mind

No, Andrea, I do not roll my eyes at the fact that you haven't read this book yet.  :-)  AND thanks for the refresher course.  :-)  Having read it at the VERY BEGINNINGS of my homeschool research, I have forgotten much of what that book taught me (my notes are somewhere).  Thanks for your thoughts and happy reading.  :-) 

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Well-Trained Mind

Last night I did a foolish thing. I thought the baby would eat at 10:00 pm (three hours after her last feeding), so I ran a bath and soaked happily with a book until almost 10, when I got out and got ready for bed. And waited for baby to wake up. To keep myself occupied while waiting since I knew it would be any minute, and falling asleep only to wake up ten minutes later is the worst, I took notes on the first 60 pages of the book I was reading in the tub.

She didn't wake up until almost midnight. I'm so tired. WHY DIDN'T I GO TO BED WHEN I HAD THE CHANCE??? Sigh.

But--I'm totally in love with the book--The Well-Trained Mind, as you already guessed from the title of this post. I'm sure Kelly and Julia are aghast that I haven't read it before as it is the Bible of homeschool literature. The reason is simple--I didn't go into homeschooling worried that I wouldn't be able to do it (although that worries me a little now :)) so I didn't feel compelled to read everything that homeschoolers all read.

I should have read this.

First, I love that it is a practical guide divided into age groups and subject matter. The fantastic organization makes it very useful as a reference book. What are some good grammar books for an 8 year old? Oh, I'll turn to the 8 year old section and look it up. Obviously, you don't have to use all their recommendations, but what a great starting point. I only read 60 pages and much of that was introduction, but I have a spelling book and grammar book written down in my notes that I want to look into before picking curriculum for next year. I like tried and true materials (which is why I read a lot of reviews on Timberdoodle and other places before purchasing anything).

Other things I love: 1) their entire approach is literacy based--also the best part of TJEd; 2) it is not child-led but it is child-centered; 3) it is ambitious; 4) it is age-appropriate.

I really like that Jessie Wise emphasizes that all parents can homeschool if they want it badly enough, regardless of their education level. I believe that. I worry about homeschoolers who don't love to read, but on the whole, I think most people of average intelligence and abilities can do a good job of it. As an educator it makes perfect sense that a much smaller teacher/student ratio is going to pay dividends. Your child might not end up as accomplished and educated as Susan Bauer, but he should be on a comparable level to public-schooled children.

I also like that there isn't a lot of philosophy mumbo-jumbo involved in their approach. At least I haven't reached any yet and hope that I do not.

I also like that it is a very useful book for non-homeschoolers. Or "friends of other educational approaches." Just kidding. Kami and Ana came to mind often as I was reading. Kami does a supplemental approach with Ana during the summer and frequently calls and asks me for curriculum advice. This book would be perfect for her to get some ideas and also a little bit of child development. (I love that Wise is an educator. I know she only taught for a few years, but she had all the child development classes and that does make a difference. Plus, I love teachers!) Kami wouldn't have to read the entire 800 page tome, just the part on 11 year olds.

I also like that Wise emphasizes that not everything can be taught and you have to pick and choose. I don't know that I agree with all her choices, but it is still a good thing that homeschoolers be reminded that there are a limited number of hours in a day.

So--what don't I like? Nothing really. There are some things with which I disagree. First, I don't think that having children read abridged versions of great books is a good idea. The Iliad, okay--it isn't that great of a book anyway. The Odyssey--okay, it is an adventure story that lends itself well to illustration. But Dickens? Wise claims that if children are familiar with a story they won't be scared to read the original. That's ridiculous. What literature loving child is going to be afraid of a book? I read Les Mis in the seventh grade. No fear here. Besides that, and most importantly, if you already know the story, why read the book? I'd much rather have my children read the really great stuff when they are ready to so they appreciate the story from the brilliant author that came up with it. In light of my view, it is funny to me that Cowen has an abridged and illustrated (about 200 page) version of The Three Musketeers that he carries around and sleeps with. They fence, after all. I've never read the book to him, but Timothy has told him most of the story line.

Also, I don't like that Wise minimizes art during the early years. I agree that an art curriculum or art appreciation isn't necessary, but I do think creating is important for children. Maybe she'll talk more in-depth concerning art later in the book. I have only scratched the surface.

In conclusion, I'm glad I'm reading this book if for no other reason that it got me thinking and excited about homeschooling next year. Since I still burst into tears when I see a full laundry basket or a sink of dishes or my children demand food, I'm cutting myself some slack and allowing my post-partum body and hormones to recuperate before jumping back into homeschooling. However, it is nice to feel excited about the coming year and have some ideas about what I want the schedule to look like and what I want different children to achieve.


For those who homeschool, some of the ideas she gave about teaching reading really made me stop and think. Miriam learned to read in 15 minutes--no joke. It was no work at all. Cowen, on the other hand, is trickier. He doesn't want to sit still, he won't look at the word--he's a "glance and guess" sort of a dude. In short, teaching him to read is more of a chore. However, the teaching reading ideas were great and got my own creative juices flowing. Since Emeline is ready to read, I thought I would take this summer and do some remedial reading with Cowen and get Emeline started. First, I'll make a checklist of the capital and lower-case letters and using a letter game on the wall to figure out which letters they recognize and which they do not. (I realized a few weeks ago that Cowen knew the sound for the letter 'n' but didn't know its name. Bad teaching on my part.)

My checklist will also have the sounds of letters. When the kids get all those checked off (and that should take a week at most--we mostly know all this stuff, it is just a double-check), I'll have them make words out of letters on the wall and find cans out of the pantry and play memory games with letters and short words.

In short, I'll make it fun. That is what is missing from Cowen's reading program right now. He can read lots of words, but it isn't fun. After playing games for a few minutes a day, he'll still have to read his reading books to me, but hopefully it won't be so much of a chore.

Other ideas I've taken from the book include a different spelling approach for Miriam. We've struggled with writing because she hates to misspell words. Sigh. I think a more intensive approach to spelling combined with copy work will help her get over the writing hump this summer and then next year, when she's in third grade, hopefully she'll be more willing to write. If not, I'll think of something!

I also love the idea of taking Miriam to the library and making her get different types of books. I created a reading group for her to force her to read a variety, but once a month is not much. This way I can take her on her own to the library (special) and she'll learn the dewey decimal system (awesome) and she will have books picked by herself (ownership) but not all Hardy Boys. We'll save the Hardy Boys (which I am actively in favor of) for free time reading. Excellent idea.

Those are the main ones. I'm going to keep posting about this book as I read so I can remember all the things I've thought about. I wrote down my practical notes in a notebook, and here are my overall thoughts. Lucky you, right?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

Here's our cleaning the house checklists. Leo calls them SOPs. Whatever. I made them because in an adoption book I read it said that foster and adoptive kids often have difficulty remembering more than one or two things at a time (ie clean this, then do your homework, then practice piano, then read, and finally.....etc) and Ana really did have a horrible time with that. So I made these, and bought a whiteboard for Ana to keep track of her tasks. They've both been amazingly helpful. Anyway, here's what we have.

  • Shake out rug and sweep floor.
  • Using a rag, bucket with cleaner, wash
  1. cupboards and counters
  2. refrigerator
  3. stove (top and front of oven)
  4. microwave (inside and out)
  • Wash sink with Comet, dry afterwards
  • Wash garbage can lid
  • Mop kitchen floor
  • Put out clean kitchen towels
  • Take everything out of bathroom (shampoos, soap, etc)
  • Put toilet bowl cleaner in toilet
  • Wash the mirror using paper towels and windex
  • Use same paper towels to Wash toothbrush holder
  • Sweep floor of bathroom
  • Wash the cupboards with rag and cleaner
  • Wash the sink and counter with Comet and then dry with towel
  • Wash the tub with Comet and then dry with towel
  • Mop the floor with bucket and Pinesol
  • Clean baby toilet
  • Clean toilet inside and out
  • Put everything back and put out fresh towels
Living Room
  • Use the broom to get rid of cobwebs
  • Straighten magazines and put away any books, toys, etc.
  • Straighten couch cushions
  • Dust computer desk, tv, bookshelves, piano, coffee table, end table and pictures
  • Vacuum
  • Sweep and mop entryway

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Life Skills

Sadly, Andrea, I think you are just as far along - if not more - as I am in planning these classes.  I pretty much just copied Diann Jepson's ideas as a starting place and tweak them as I go.  Although my oldest daughter is nearly 13, they have just recently become more pertinent to her.  She has a much bigger desire to learn these things now that she's seeing the benefit in her life.  Not that getting her to cook was ever a problem. 

Our cooking class has been our most successful so far, and has involved giving my child the responsibility of cooking for a certain meal every day.  Breakfast has worked well for us.  I teach them how to make everything, and then they have to get up early enough to have the meal ready in time.  The great thing about doing the life skills class this way is that it was real-world consequences.  If they sleep in and don't make breakfast, dad goes to work hungry. 

Now that Hannah's 12, and is ready to move on from her "Bank of Dad" account to a real one, we need to create a money management course, but I haven't gotten it done yet.

Some other ideas for life skills classes I'm working on:
first aid/babysitting
event planning
meal etiquette - how to properly set a table, serve, play hostess
car care
basic sewing
driving (only two years until I actually have to think about this one!!)

I read that practice scholar phase is the best place to really work on a lot of these adult skills.  We are in the middle of figuring out exactly how that's going to look in our family.  Lots of discussions going on with my husband and daughter as she moves into a new phase of life. She's definitely our guinea pig!


Are you willing to share your Life Skills Classes?? I've only put together the baking/cooking/meal preparation/menu planning/grocery list writing/grocery shopping/lead the singing classes. Obviously, I have a ways to go. If you are willing, I'd love to look through yours and steal your ideas, if possible.

My husband wants a course for creating a business. Thanks for the book tip, Julia.

Also, Kami, I know you already have a binder with detailed instructions on how to clean all the rooms in the house. Would you be willing to share that with me so I can steal it for the cleaning course? That would be awesome.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

More Ideas on Work

This is one of my favorite blogs to browse every once in awhile.  I like how she integrates work into her home  & thought it was fitting for this discussion.

I used to worry a lot about finances and teaching my kids about finances.  So far we're doing it how my parents did it....which wasn't the best way I assure you, but it seems to have worked for my siblings and myself.  Basically, whenever the kids earn money they have to save some.  We don't just give them money for things they want.  My parents taught more by example, my dad was very entrepreneurial, my husband thinks that same way.  So that's what we do.  As they get older I'm noticing that they sense the desire and need to earn money and are all starting to think of ways they can earn money.  John has had a lemonade stand and just read the first winning Apprentice's book (you know that reality show?) "Beyond Lemonade Stands" which teaches kids how to start their own business. We all sell our plums each summer, the girls had a temporary babysitting/dog walking job for a couple of months, when we go to the Farmer's Market they all start talking about things they want to sell someday, John wants to teach piano lessons when he turns 14....those types of things.  This year, all three of my kids put "Save $100" as one of their yearly goals and then they set up different baggies for spending and saving.  Of course, I had to encourage John that it's best to create two different baggies because he wanted to just put it all in one pot and "Just not spend it."  We all know how unrealistic that is!  :-)  I haven't read the book.  I've heard it's great and when I can get my hands on it I'd like to read it.  But for now I just don't see any purpose for young children to have money.  I'm more on the same page as the lady who wrote the Headgates article:  it's an adult responsibility they can earn when they are ready. 

My very unhumble opinion!  BUT with that said, I love that your family found what you needed, Andrea, and it's so fun to get excited about these things!  :-)  (sorry....not trying to deflate your excitement on the subject).