Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Accidental Ears?

“We can’t even tune up your balance with a crystal overhaul, let alone give you a new set of crystals, hairs and fresh jelly. So whadya think? Look at what we have here. We tie in the property of gravity with a network of nerves to send information to the brain. And then we program the brain so it knows what to do with those signals. Some signals are for balancing. Other signals are for automatic instincts saving us from a fall. Still other signals are for detecting sounds like music or a sarcastic tone of voice.


Folks, there’s nobody nowhere that can make anything like what you have already right inside of your ears. Now can you really listen to anyone tell you that your ears were made by accident?”

Samuel J. Alibrando

Nature Never Stops Talking


God is simply brilliant!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Everyone Needs a Cheerleader!

I was speaking to an almost-ready-to-homeschool mom this morning and something struck me. She really needed to know that there were others like her who would persevere from beginning until the end. Now this lovely woman is an ESL teacher who has taught many adults to function in our American society. She is no dummy! However, she was intimidated by homeschooling. How many of us are out there who feel the same way? I have said before that I am no longer intimidated by teaching the first six years of homeschooling--it is the next seven I am fearful of! I know that with each additional year I teach my oldest it will not be so for my younger ones, but as I face every new year (and every higher grade in school) my fear of failure grows. Can I do it?! What if I warp my children?! 


I was trying to be this woman's cheerleader--yes, you CAN do it! You can teach your child to read, do his sums, enjoy learning, etc. You CAN because you are his mother and homeschooling is wonderful! And you know what; I believe that with all my heart. Homeschooling is a gift from God to those who choose it. It is impossible to understand that unless you are doing it. Yes, certainly we have our down days. Our darker-filled-with-frustration days, but the overall blessing of being with our children day in and day out is unmatched.


Those days that I feel the fear for the future I look to my friends who have been there and done it. I look at young ladies like Jen's daughter, Coie. I happen to know her personally and know the lovely young woman she is becoming. I happen to know that she really cares deeply for those around her and does things that are wholly unnecessary, but sincerely kind. I happen to know that she loves her Savior and her parents and serves those in her life. WOW! It happens! There are young people who have made it all the way through their homeschooling years to become amazing young adults. God is SO good to those who are faithful. Were her parents perfect? Did they do everything right? No. Jen and Geoff would tell you that it is by God's grace alone that she is as lovely a young woman as she is today. I happen to know though, that God worked through the broken people of Jen and Geoff. We are all broken and remade in the image of Christ. God uses us broken people to minister to His children and we are allowed to be a part of it at home in our schools.


I am so happy to be a mama and so happy to be homeschooling. Love love love those children and enjoy them. Thank you, Jesus!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Please pray for a sister in Christ

An sweet online friend has had a great deal of sadness recently. She wrote this:


"My motivation for beginning a blog now is simple: there are ongoing developments in my life and the lives of my five little punkinheads which I cannot bear to speak out loud more than is absolutely necessary."


God bless her, I don't know how she speaks them at all sometimes. God is sustaining her through SO much personal trauma, but now her new baby has some serious medical problems and she needs your prayers.


God is our strength and shield, a very present help in time of trouble.


Lift her up with me. Her name is Carrie.


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Update on our brother below

See this story for the update. May God spare him and the world's outrage make a difference.


Pray for him!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A Brother in Christ in Crisis

I don't know how many of you have seen this story. It is new to me. This poor man, a professed believer in Jesus Christ, is being persecuted for his faith - possibly unto death! There is a protest being planned and we need to make some noise to Washington, and anywhere else you can think of, to make a bigger deal over this.


Pray for this brother in Christ and may God protect him!!

Monday, March 20, 2006

What I wish I had believed, numbers 6 and 5...

Back to the list! (See this for numbers 8 and 7, and this for numbers 10 and 9.)


6. Curriculum is a servant and not a master.


How many of you have said to yourselves, "I can't skip that lesson! It is in the book!" or "We have to finish the book!" Guess what? You can skip that lesson and you don't have to finish the book! YOU are in charge--embrace your freedom as the teacher of your classroom. Most teachers never finish their books because there is simply not enough time in the year to do so. In many textbooks the beginning is review of the previous year, and often the end is introduction to next year’s material. We school year-round and take breaks when we need them. So if I want to finish a book, I can, but I don't have to. If your child understand that lesson, or mastered last year's material already, you can skip it, or test out of it, or only do the odd problems, etc. I think you get my meaning-you have the freedom to use the curriculum to suit your needs.  


You also have permission to tweak assignments to suit your child's interests or personality. My friend's son loves sailing ships from the 19th century. She utilized this interest to help him learn to write. He read all about the ships on his own so she tailored some of his writing assignments to this interest. He enjoyed sharing what he knew about the ships!


The biggest thing to remember about your curriculum is that you are teaching your child, not the book!  We teach them because we love them, and we teach them where they are - where ever that might be. The book is a tool, the child is your precious one.


5. Each child learns at his own rate. Not all late bloomers have a learning disability.


As I stated before, I am not an expert on learning disabilities. If you have serious concerns, you can go to NATHHAN for more information.


With that said, while my friend and I have not had any children with learning disabilites, we have late bloomers--and yes, they do exist! I already told you about my friend's son, "Jimmy," who needed three phonics programs to read well. He might have been labeled with a disability in public school, but he just needed more time, patience and attention from mom. He is now a brilliant reader and highly intelligent to boot!


As I also wrote above, capitalize on your children's interests. This will help so much! My dear friend's son, Jimmy, was interested in knights and castles and all things medieval. So, she utilized that and bought books he could read on those subjects. She knew he would struggle through them because of his love of the subject--and she was right. Children can learn so much be the study of a subject they love because almost all subjects will blend into others. In many ways, it is like a unit study, but one they enjoy!


Flexibility is more helpful than a label. I *do* recognize that there are learning disabilities out there, but do not be quick to label your child, and certainly do not communicate to them that you feel they are “behind” “not getting it” or “stupid.” It just takes some children longer to learn certain things.  It is important to remember that each of your children is unique and will have their own strengths and weaknesses. Flexibility and creativity are two of your greatest assets as a parent and a teacher--especially when your child is struggling.


Praise God we are not all the same! I love seeing the strengths and weaknesses of each of my children. What a blessing to see how God has gifted each one and what a blessing it is to see their inner person come out in their work. We are blessed to have the privilege of homeschooling--love those children!


The rest of the series is found in the right sidebar.

Friday, March 17, 2006

I would like to say...

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!


Enjoy your corned beef and cabbage today! And don't forget the Irish Soda Bread! Here is a great recipe for you!


May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Scented Break Time!

I was just recently introduced to something rather new and exciting to me. I really love high quality scented candles and this site has some amazingly yummy, as well as long-lasting ones. They are made with soy so they burn clean and long and the scents last and last. I thought I would share because they are so inexpensive for the high quality that you receive. (A half-pint scented candle for only $3.50!) They also sell make-at-home kits so that you can do them with your children. We have done it and my 9 and 11 year-olds can now say they have created a candle on their own. Its scent is cucumber-melon and boy is it nice in our kitchen. Anyway, if you like high quality, I thought I would direct you here. Enjoy! (We sure are.)





Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Numbers 8 and 7!

Sorry for such a long delay in posting these! I was getting swamped in real life and just had to tackle it!

8. Copywork and dictation are simple yet effective ways to teach writing.

When they are young, copywork and eventually dictation are great ways to get your children interested in and accomplished in writing. Copying small portions of works of literature that your children like or are interested in can really open up a whole world to them. They see, hear, and copy, correct grammar, spelling, and sentence structure over and over.

When they are very young, don't push the writing too much because for some little ones, writing is sincerely a chore and their little hands have a difficult time doing it. I begin writing by having my children trace copywork I have printed out for them with my StartWrite software. I have used selections from Scripture, from favorite books or poems, catechism Q & A, or silly sentences that grab their attention. I watch them as they trace the letters making sure they are learning how to write correctly. When they have mastered their letters and are reading, we move onto more thorough selections for their copywork. I do use a grammar text later on, but for second and third grades I really like Daily Grams. Once they are writing well with copywork and can read thoroughly, I move into Rod & Staff English texts. Daily Grams gives the basics of grammar knowledge, and then Rod & Staff helps you to put it to use in your own writing.


A helpful trio of small, but important books, The Three R's, by Ruth Beechick, are very helpful and I highly recommend this for beginning homeschoolers! It will encourage you in the beginning of your journey and reassure you - yes, you can do it!

7. You can't force reading.

This is quite possibly my biggest message and the one that I see homeschool parents freaking out about the most. Between the two of us who spoke the other night, we have ten children. Out of those ten children, six are reading, five with fluency beyond their grade. Each and every one of them learned at a different rate. This cannot be stated enough.

I was reading a homeschooling board the other day and a mother posted that she had been trying to teach her five year-old to read for three years. Right there a red flag went up for me - five years old and learning for three years? She then went on to say that she realized that she had started too early and took a break and began again when her oldest turned five. She said they have been progressing very slowly and that they have reached a point where they are not progressing in combining the letters and the mother is frustrated and concerned that her daughter is stupid. I will be honest and say my heart broke for this child as I read this, but for many reasons. Some of which involve my own failings teaching my firstborn.

Many many children do not learn to read until they are late 6 or 7, and sometimes 8 or 9 depending on the child and their brain. This does NOT mean they are stupid. They are completely normal - for them. I no longer even start to teach my children formally to read until they are between five and six, and I will only start if I see a real ability to do so. One of my biggest fears was not being able to pass on a love of reading. Reading is central to so much of life and how else do we get to know our Lord? Reading is also the key to any future learning on a large scale.

Many new homeschooling moms really struggle in this area and face the very real fears of "will I fail to teach my child to read?" It is usually their first child and they are in a panic. I know because I lived it! I struggled when my firstborn was six and didn't read! What I learned and what I tried to impart was that she did and yours will learn, but it will only come in time. I used and love and highly recommend, Phonics Pathways, because it is systematic and thorough. Not only do you learn all the letter sounds and blends, and see how it all comes together, you also learn the WHY. I don’t know about you, but when I went to public school I was one of their guinea pigs who learned to read with the “Look Say” method. Guess what? I never really knew, until much later in my life and after some self-teaching, that there were such things as digraphs and diphthongs, or why the “a” says its name instead of its sounds in the word “game.” Phonics Pathways opened a lot of doors for me and for my children and I have used it successfully with three of my own children who are reading now.

These are some of the specific things we shared:

~When they are ages 2-5, expose them to letter sounds and letters all the time and call their attention to them (stop signs, point out letters in books, games, movies, CDs with letter sounds, etc.) When they have grasped the concept of letters and sounds connecting to them, start with “Trial Balloons” to see if they are ready to learn to put the puzzle pieces together. My son knew all the sounds and I could point to one and he would give me the name and sound. I thought, he might be ready! So, I gave it a whirl. I said, “What does F  A  T  say?” (I sounded out the letters, but did not blend them too closely to see if he could put them together in his head.) His response, “Football?” I smiled and knew he was just not ready yet. A month or so later, he was, and it had clicked. F  A  T  will never again say “football” to my now-reading son!

~You can’t force blending or combining. It will only “click” when their brains are ready for it to.

~Make learning available to them in small increments (15-20 minutes maximum), regularly, with no stress involved. Make it fun and easy with games, phonics magnetic tiles on the fridge, songs of the phonics sounds, DVDs, etc. There are tons of things like this out there and much available at the library.

~Not every child is learning delayed or learning disabled. Some are, but many are just late bloomers. More on this in number 5 on another day. Suffice it to say that if you have real concerns,
www.NATHHAN.com is the place to begin.

~ One of my friend’s children needed three complete phonics programs from start to finish, lots of time spent with mom in practice, and mom buying books at his level in his interests to do it. He can now read beyond his grade at age 9. She was patient and knew he would learn over time with effort and growth, and he did!

~Read to them a lot. Hearing stories, book tapes (again, library is a great source) and understanding that words are an opening to another world make that real.

~NO ANGER. Blending will happen when their brains are ready and not before. Your anger and frustration will not help, but can actually harm the situation. I know - I lived it. It humbles and saddens me to think that I got angry at my tiny six year-old firstborn because she was not blending when I thought she should. Oh, parents, love those little ones! Homeschooling and teaching our children is a part of life, not life itself.

Our children are special creations with their own needs, abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. They are precious, and any perceived weaknesses should be dealt with in love and patience. 


The rest of the series is found in the right sidebar.

For a great new resource that might help all you new or not-so-new homeschoolers discover the various methods of homeschooling, this book might be for you:



Brought to you by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine!