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Friday, August 29, 2008

Kindergarten Schedule -- Really

Ok, so all the veteran home schoolers are not surprised at all that my original Kindergarten schedule did not go as planned.  Click here to see what we were trying to do.  

The first morning went great.  Sammie did some memory/match games.  I found lots of neat kids' sites at Rocks In My Dryer.
While Sam had her computer time, Chase and Ava built a castle.  (While the stable was being built, a monster named "Ava" tore down the castle, so Prince Chase had to rescue the princess and rebuild everything.)

The afternoon is where we kind of fell apart. Chase is very used to Sammie leading the fun during nap time, so he interrupted a ton and wanted to do whatever Sam was doing. In the morning, he seems to be content with a video or playing with Ava. The biggest revisions to our day have to do with timing and location.

1) We're now doing the work she doesn't like in the morning, then computer time is her reward for finishing.  She doesn't like to practice her handwriting, but it's already done a world of good. I never thought I'd hear the word "boring" on day one!

2)We're moving locations from the room I'd prepared downstairs to the kitchen counter. Although she thought it was fun to have a special room, it didn't really work.  Especially since we're moving to more work in the morning.  I can get her started, then do my chores or take care of the little one's needs without great interruption to her work.  Maybe a "school room" will make more sense when there's more than one of them working.

3) Also, instead of trying to do school all at once in the afternoon during Ava's naptime, I'm breaking it up more.  Practice sheets and math at the counter in the morning, then any new lessons in the afternoon.

That's about it, but it seems to be going much more smoothly just with those little changes.

Here's the gem so far:  on the second morning she actually ASKED to do math.  Woohoo! You can see the counting blocks that she loves.  She got through 25 pages the first two days.

Chase wanted in on the action when he saw Grandaddy reading to Sam earlier.

And yesterday, every time I said it was time to be finished with our read aloud, she would say, "Just a little more, please?" Imagine that. A book with no pictures even! I hope she's loving it as much as I am.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Just A Little Thing I've Been Workin' On

I've had so much fun putting together this Star Chenille Quilt for a sweet friend of mine who's having a baby girl in a few weeks.  I couldn't tell you about it, because it was a surprise!  Well, now that we've showered her abundantly, I can show you.

I had a few extra squares and sewed them together for a baby doll blanket. I thought she might find it fun some day to snuggle her baby in the same kind of "bankick" that she has. (That's little Ava's pronunciation.)

I'm not a great seamstress, but I love to play around. My very crafty and talented mother-in-law taught me how to do this.  Here's the website if you want to get the pattern for yourself.  I only spent about 8 dollars on fabric for this one.

Seriously, you CAN NOT mess this up. If you can sew straight (even sort of), you can make this in any size with any kinds of soft flannels you like.  Choose between two complimentary fabrics or lots of different ones even if they don't look like they match.  That's why they sometimes call this a "crazy quilt" or "rag quilt". You sew the batting in between the individual squares and then sew the squares into rows. I made a manly looking plaid-ish one for Brian a few years ago and made a fancy one for my Mom's formal living room after that.

As an aside, this kind of project is like therapy for me.  Something that is just mine and I can get lost in it.  I can work on it a little at at time and there's something beautiful when it's finished. A project that has a beginning and an end.  Unlike never ending laundry and such!

Try it!  Try it!  You'll love it!


Why I Really Blog

When I was in high school and college I would get double prints of all my pictures.  I'd spend hours cutting out words and phrases from magazines to go with just the right photos.  It's almost laughable to think I could do that in my current life. Brian, on the other hand, is a huge proponent of capturing the memories of our children and our life through journaling.  He feels it's so important to pass on memories and lessons we've learned to our children.  In short, I thought blogging would be the best of both worlds. (Especially when I learned you could make them into book format after a time.)

Here's the long story: my birth mother died when I was 3 years old.  It was sudden. A blood clot in her arm that moved to her heart. At that time, my brother was 4 and my sister, 8.  None of my mother's family lived close by.  A couple of states over at the closest.  She had no siblings, so there was no connection with cousins or other young people who might have wanted to stay in touch. 

A year and a half later my father remarried the lady whom I call "mom" now.  I've never known her as "step-mom" and anyone who knew my family then who might refer to her as such, gets a very confused response from me and I have to think through who on earth they are talking about. When they married, she adopted all three of us and raised us as if she'd labored with each one.  

I've not written about my birth mother much for fear of hurting my mom now.  I don't want her to feel slighted or unappreciated in anyway.   But here is my reality:  I didn't know my mom and I wish I did.

I can count on one hand the times my father spoke of my birth mother while I was growing up. I can only guess it was either because it hurt too much or he thought that was a way to protect our new family unit.  

So, when we'd go visit my grandparents, for a week or two every summer in Arkansas, my grandmother would show us lots of pictures of my mom when she was young and tell stories (the same ones over and over, as grandparents tend to do.)  I liked hearing the stories, but still felt awkward.  I was young and there was so much I didn't understand.  I felt like they might as well have been talking about a great aunt or something.  I didn't hear stories about how she related to us.  About what kind of mom she was.  About how she felt about us.  About choices she made for us.  It seemed like they were telling stories of a stranger.  I guess what I mean is that there was no context and no support of the idea of this person in my every day life.

I told my Grandaddy the other day (this is my birth mother's father) that I never missed my mother more than after I had my own children.  I want to KNOW her.  I want to know if I was as smart as Sammie when I was 5.  (I can dream, can't I?)  I want to know if she nursed any of us.  Did she let any of us crawl in bed with her and Daddy when we were scared?  Who taught us how to ride a bike?  Did they always agree on how to parent us? Did we beg for a story every night or ask her to sing for us?  Could she sing at all?  Who were her girlfriends?  What did they do together?  What did she do when she was tired of changing our diapers?  (She had two in diapers at once, too.)  Did Daddy ever change diapers?  Did she ever need a break from us and then as soon as she got one wondered what we were doing? Well, the list goes on and on.

I suppose I could've asked Daddy these things at some point, too.  But, as I've said before, I didn't have the wisdom to ask. He died about 9 years ago. There's another long story as to why I didn't ever ask him the tough questions I did think of.  When I get the courage, I'll write about it.  The bottom line is that I didn't want to make him sad by remembering things lost.

I had an opportunity to go camping with a girlfriend of mine last year with no kids in tow. When I kissed Brian goodbye, I said, "If something happens to me, don't let them forget me."  

That's really why I blog.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Charles Justus Arnold

We gave Chase my father's first name because I adored him and respected him and loved him with all my heart.  He was honest and loving and fun and kind.  He was honorable and caring and patient.  And, when I can write about him without crying at each sentence, because I miss him so much, then I will.

Brian gave Chase his middle name, Justus, for two reasons.  The first is that Brad Justus is one of Brian's closest friends.  Also a model of integrity and kindness.  A genuine "good guy".  The kind that will fight for you and with you and ask for the reasons later.  We respect and love Brad and his family so much that they are on the short list of who gets the kids should something happen to both of us.  

The second meaning behind the name is Biblical. The short story is that Justus was one of the runners-up to replace Judas in the circle of 12.  Read this chapter for reference and the thoughts I have are at the end.  Stick with it now, or my comments won't make any sense!

Here's the story in Acts chapter 1, written by the apostle Paul:

Jesus Taken Up Into Heaven
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, "Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus— he was one of our number and shared in this ministry."

(With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)

"For," said Peter, "it is written in the book of Psalms, " 'May his place be deserted;  let there be no one to dwell in it,' and, " 'May another take his place of leadership.' Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection."

So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, "Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs." Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

I don't know that we put this much thought into it originally, but there are a couple of things I hope Chase can learn from this guy.  One is that he was among the first to believe.  Granted, Jesus actually appeared to a bunch of people after His resurrection, so for my faithless heart, His belief seems easier.  I hope Chase is an "early believer" and doesn't ask for dozens of proofs first!

Also, Justus was a runner-up.  He was called out, we don't know exactly why, but presumably he stood out among the believers for some reason.  He stood out, but was not chosen in the end.  It's ok to not be first.  To not be the chosen one.  What matters is that his faith be so palpable that he stands out and people say, "I want what HE'S got!"

Lastly, Justus was the tiniest part, as Peter pointed out, of the fulfilling of yet another Old Testament prophecy.  The statistical likelihood of ANY of the Old Testament prophecies being fulfilled is staggering. I want Chase to know that he knows that he knows the story of Jesus is not made up.  It happened. It's real.  And, Jesus died for him, too!

As an aside, there are other references to the name "Justus" in the Bible.  Not the least of which is one who was imprisoned with Paul named "Jesus, also called Justus."  You can read about it in Colossians 4:10-12

I can't wait to record all the ways Chase lives up to his namesakes.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Blog Award? No Way!

There's a sweet girl in the blog world who occasionally leaves encouraging comments on my blog. She gave me a blog award! I'm in shock.  An award?  Really? It's from Tyler at ET@Titus2:3-5.  Thanks, Tyler.  I'm such a newbie at this, it makes me feel special. Says she's never MIRLed (can that be a verb?) any of her bloggy buddies.  She's from Alberta, Canada, AND she called me "drop dead gorgeous" (which no one, not even my husband, has ever said), so I say.....your place or mine?
I'm supposed to nominate 7, yes seven!, other blogs.  Unfortunately, I only really read two (who have already been awarded) and there's another I WISH would blog more, I'll mention.  All the others, I'm nominating because they were the first non-real-life friends who commented on any of my posts.

The two I read regularly (mainly because I'm the nosy neighbor she's always warning her readers about when they go on vacation):

Still His Girl:  Put simply, Cindy is the one who convinced be start my own blog. She is my neighbor and my friend and a great Mom mentor.  I find myself CONSTANTLY copying her ideas.  I'm currently copying her idea of special plates for each child. I love the ones who pave my way!

Honey, I Fed the Kids!: Neighbor's hubby.  I love to laugh out loud and his posts almost ALWAYS fit the bill.  He's nuts and I really feel sorry for his wife. People that funny are usually equally embarrassing.

The one I wish would post more:
 The Lord Provided a Tree:  Her hubby writes most of it, I think, but as a family, they have so much wisdom to share. I guess she's too busy homeschooling three kids, adopting two babies from China and supporting her husband in worship ministry.  She is a constant encouragement to me, genuinely cares about her friends and their struggles, and I love the fact that she can own up to it when she doesn't have all the answers.  (I still wish she had them, though.)

Here are my blog world commenters (or should that be commentators?):
Lisa at Stop and Smell the Chocolates:  She started blogging about the same time I did.  I love that she's a grown woman and admits that Mary Poppins is one of her favorite movies.  (Mine, too.)

Tammy at Greek GRITS (Girls Raised in the South):  As a fellow GRIT, I liked her IMMEDIATELY!  (I'm from Kentucky, lest anyone think I'm calling Indiana the South.) Check out her GREAT observation on the USA volleyball team uniforms.

Shore Stories:  She calls herself Halfmoon Girl....need I say more?  Seriously, I love that she doesn't mess around with re-makes and is totally dedicated to the A & E version of Pride and Prejudice.  AND...of my limited readership, TWO are from Canada.  Who'da thunk it?

A Planting of the Lord: Kimberly calls herself "kmom3"...I'm one of those, too!  AND, she's from the South.  AND, she loves Sense and Sensibility.  AND, anyone wanna be "kmom4"? BTW, Kimberly, I once dyed my hair the WRONG red.  As blondes, we can definitely do just have to find the right shade.  I ended up copying mine from my little Ava.

Here's how this award dealie works:
- Put the logo on your blog.
- Link to the person you received your award from.
- Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
- Put links to those blogs on your site.
- Leave messages on the blogs you've nominated.


He Knows How You Feel

I've talked to some Mom friends of mine, older and younger, with babies and grown children, who have been discouraged lately.  About the choices their children are making or have made or the attitudes they display or the silence that screams at them.

Beth Moore, a favorite author and speaker of mine encouraged me in my young parenting by saying this:

God knows the intense pain of intense love.  If you are a parent, you have already experienced fear, vulnerability, and pain.  And the Father hasn't missed one second of your parenthood.  If you have a child who is rejected by his peers, God knows how you feel. If you have a child who is not beautiful to look upon, He knows how you feel (see Isa. 53). If you have a child who has been betrayed by her friends, He knows how you feel.  If you have a child who has begged you to "fix" something you could not fix, He knows how you feel.  If you have a child who is suffering, He knows how you feel. If you have a child who is dying, He knows how you feel. If you have buried a child, He knows how you feel.  He's been there, too. However, there is one big difference. He could have changed every bit of it. But He didn't. For you and me.

God loved no mother on earth more than the one He chose for His Son.  Yet she was unable to hold Him in her grasp for as long as she wished.  You who are richly loved, do not give up. (from Living Beyond Yourself, a study of the fruit of the Spirit.)

Someone point me back this way when I'm challenged in parenting!


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Pickled Cucumbers

My garden looks so happy this year and the cucumbers having been coming in abundance!  I love fresh cucumbers with cottage cheese and I grew up eating a version of pickled cucumbers, but my friend, Paula, introduced me to THE best way to eat them.  It also preserves them for a long time in the fridge.

Thinly slice cucumbers and white/yellow or vidalia many or as few as you want.
Cover with EQUAL parts water, vinegar and sugar.  

Yes, it seems like a lot of sugar, but it really is good.  Best when it can sit at least 8 hours or overnight before first use.

We use it like a relish, eat it over bean soup and even have it as a side dish at many summer meals.

Yumm!  Yumm!


Friday, August 15, 2008

Plain Truth

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult is set in present day Lancaster, PA.  It's a story about Ellie, a high-profile attorney, who has taken on a murder case in which a newly-found Amish cousin has been accused of killing her newborn. As part of the bail agreement, Ellie has to live in the Amish community and never leave her cousin's side until the trial.  For a full review, click here.

I always love to see a mystery unravel, but I especially liked this book because it gave me a glimpse into the Amish way of life.  They call themselves "plain".  Individuality is idolized in our society.  But to be Plain, the last thing you do is call attention yourself or even give compliments to another, setting you or anyone else higher than the others.  It's hard to understand given all the reading I've done about building each other's self-esteem and having self-confidence.  

One little excerpt made me laugh and I even stopped to read it aloud to my husband.  The Amish family was eating dinner with their new "English" cousin at the table.  She observed:

The Fishers laughed and talked in their dialect, helping themselves to food when their plates were empty.  Finally, Aaron leaned back in his chair and let out a phenomenal belch.  My eyes widened at the breach of etiquette, but his wife beamed at him as if that was the grandest compliment he could ever give.

I can't tell you how much my family must enjoy my food.  (Especially Grandaddy!)

Over and over, I was reminded of the old adage that actions speak louder than words.  They should call themselves "Quiet," if you ask me.  Very few words, but a LOT of work.  At one point an Amish son, who was excommunicated for studying at an English college, comes to a realization that he's waited for years to hear his father say, "I'm sorry," but that's not how they communicate.  Apologies or forgiveness comes by way of returning to the routine, working side by side.  By moving ahead once a punishment has been dealt.  Confess your sin, repent, you are move on.  Sound familiar? No analyzing things to death or seeing a counselor for years.  Things were worked out by living them out, so to speak.  A lot of work and not so many words.  Is there a lesson in there for me?  Hhhhmmmm....

The author wraps it up like this:

In the English world, people sent condolences and wrote email and exchanged valentines.  In the Amish world, sympathy came in the form of a visit, love was a look of satisfaction cast across the dinner table, help was hands-on.

 Remember the movie Amadeus from the late 80s?  The king, an amateur musician at best, criticizes Mozart by saying, "There are too many notes."   Sometimes, I think in my life, there are too many words.  I could learn a thing or two from the Amish.

Do you ever fail to make contact in an awkward or difficult situation because you just don't know what on earth to say?
The Bible wraps it up like this:
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18

Is there a time when someone didn't have all the right words to say, but you knew their love because of something they DID?  Got any great examples of love in action?  Leave a comment and tell me about them. I have some examples I'll post soon.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Kindergarten Schedule

We created a schedule with four columns, one for each of us -- Sammie, Chase, Ava and me.  It's divided into half hour increments.  (Mine starts before 7:00 and ends at 10:00 and I may post it someday, if anyone is interested.) If we're still home schooling in ten years, it will probably be divided into 15 minute increments and not have so many gaps.  We're at a stage where every minute does not need to be accounted for.  Sammie is so creative that we build in free time, so that she can learn through her own imaginative play time.

I love this quote from Albert Einstein: "The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education."  

7:30 Dress and get ready for the day
8:00 Breakfast
8:30 Computer Time ( or other educational and fun websites)
9:00 Morning Chores (make bed, brush hair/teeth, pick up toys in room)
9:30 Video (usually something educational from library)
10:00 Outside time with siblings
10:30 Family Walk
11:00 Reading Time w/ Grandaddy (click here for list we'll go through)
11:30 Special All-Age Activity (this could range from craft to VBX music to kicking a soccer ball around orange cones)
12:00 Sam and Ava have one on one time while Chase is my lunch prep helper
12:30 Lunch and clean up
1:00 PM Chores (set table for supper, sweep in dining room, vacuum Grandaddy's room)
1:30  Sing, Spell, Read & Write  (while Ava naps and Chase has a special on-his-own activity)
2:00 SSRW continuation (games or color sheets)
2:30 Math U See
3:00 Sam and Chase play together downstairs
3:30 Snack time
4:00 Spanish (while Chase has play time in his room)
4:30 PBS television (Fetch is current programming at this time in Indiana)
5:00  Sammie is my supper helper (younger kids play on bikes in garage)
5:30  Free time or fancy supper prep time
6:00 Supper and clean up
7:00 All kids have Daddy time (I'll let him blog about the fun stuff he does then)
7:30 PJs and story time (kids choose books)
8:00 Family Bible reading (Brian and I are working through the One Year Bible.  It's supposed to be daily, but we don't always do it that way.  Ava will be asleep and we thought it would be a good way for the kids to wind down to listen to us read aloud. This leads right into prayers and bedtime at 8:30.)

So, you can see that reading, writing and arithmetic only takes up about an hour and a half, but there is so much learning going on all day long!

While this schedule seems definite, it's got a lot of flexibility built in.  We may alter it depending on how the kids do.  We also may alter it sooner since Brian has some neat ideas about what to do with our time once he begins coming home earlier from work.  I'll let you know if those become routine.  

You'll notice "school work" is scheduled for the afternoon.  That's specifically so that we can do our grocery shopping, errands and co-ops in the morning on their scheduled days.  And we can't forget the flexibility that having Grandaddy with us requires.  He's in very good shape for his age and we can plan ahead frequently, but for those other times, I'm glad we're doing things this way.

I won't post about school every day, but I do plan to let you know tomorrow how Sammie's first day of Kindergarten went.  Any bets?  Think it will go as scheduled?  Will she love it?  Will I love it?  


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Farming in the Blood

Brian was raised in Benton County, Indiana, a farm community. They call the dirt there "black gold" because it's so rich and fertile. Brian's maternal grandparents, Fred and Kathryn Wolverton, farmed all their lives. While they passed on years ago, their farming legacy still lives on through their son Dick and Brian's baby brother, Jason. Jason lives with his family in their farmhouse and we had a great time showing the kids around the farm a couple of weekends ago.

When Brian speaks of his "Kitty Grandma" (because she had so many cats), it's always with respect and affection. He says he can remember spending Saturdays there in front of her TV watching football while she brought him plate after plate of home made french fries. To this day, no ones fries compare.

This tractor was bought by Grandpa in the early 1950s and they still use it to turn the auger on the corn silo during harvest. Everyone got a ride. (Even me, but there's no photo.)  Uncle Jason took the kiddos first.

I don't have a great picture of it, but what you see in the back ground here is the original corn crib.  It was replaced by three silver silos where everything was mechanized later, from the shucking to the (whatever the technical term is for taking the kernals off the cob).  
Brian would've made a great farmer!  He looks like a natural on here, doesn't he? The kids got to climb on other equipment...some sort of combine thing and other tractors.  They were huge!  Brian remembers riding along during planting and harvest.  His mom says Uncle Dick fixed a foam pallet in the cab so that he could "rest" if he got tired.
There were corn fields on one side and soy bean fields on the other.  I wondered how many beans it took to make the soy milk we drink.  We learned the difference between field corn and sweet corn.  Jason and Cindy had planted a small (well, it looked pretty big to me) patch of sweet corn for eating and Jason taught the kids how to pick it and how to see if it's ripe.  They listened and followed instructions so well.
I think Sammie would've picked the whole patch!
And, no farm is complete without a tire swing!  Ava really was having a good time, I promise!
The dog you see in this picture and the first one is named Roxy.  When we first got there, she disappeared into the corn field.  The kids, of course, wanted to go after her, but I was afraid they'd get lost in the corn.  They kept calling and calling.  Finally, she came out with a fully shucked ear of corn!  I didn't hardly believe it until I saw her shuck another ear later.  She knows what's good, I guess!
Daddy took the kids for a ride on the go cart and Ava remained fascinated with the buckle.  I'll save the four wheeler pictures for when I know the grandparents won't have a heart attack.
We all had so much fun and you could tell by the layers of dirt we had to wash off.

We're hoping to go back in a few weeks during harvest, so they can ride the combines!  Stay tuned....


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sammie's Kindergarten Curriculum

Since we decided to homeschool, I've talked to many friends who said of Kindergarten, "It's just Kindergarten.  You can't mess it up!" I will absolutely remind myself of that throughout the year!  I did however have tons of fun looking at all the different options and even thought of creating my own plan.  Click on any of the (blue or purple) links to find out more detail if you'd like.

Here's what we came up with:

Sing, Spell, Read & Write uses phonics songs, interactive charts, and games to teach the alphabetic principle, phonetic awareness, sound/letter correspondence, short vowel sounds, and blending - in a fun and meaningful way. By the end of Kindergarten, Sammie will be reading fully-decodable story books with single-, short- vowel words. (I'm going to know what all that means by then, too!)

The incorporation of songs is really what convinced us to choose this program for her.  We've already been playing the pre-school CD at night for Chase to hear while he falls asleep.

I've never felt very confident about math, but Brian is a whiz.  I still can't believe I'm in charge of the bills and daily finances in our household.  So, finding the right math curriculum was very important to me.  I want my kids to learn it AND love it.  (Or at least, not hate it.)  We chose Math U See. (Because, I've learned, you can actually SEE how it works with the blocks that come with the program.)

"Math·U·See's goal is to help produce confident problem solvers who enjoy the study of math. The reason we study math is so we can apply what we learn in everyday situations. The students learn their math facts, rules, and formulas, and are able to use this knowledge in real life applications. The study of math is much more than committing a list of facts to memory. It includes memorization, but it also encompasses learning the concepts that are critical to problem solving."

This year, we'll introduce her to place value, skip counting and she'll be able to tell time by the end of the school year!

You may have seen the commercials or read their ads in an airplane magazine.  I referenced it a couple of months ago in another post.  Sammie has loved what she's learned already.  She's sort of at a stand still with the program until she can learn to read.  She's done well already with matching vocabulary and speaking correctly in the microphone.  Until she can read well, we'll supplement with Spanish CDs and kids videos.

"Rosetta Stone® is built on a series of common, easily recognizable images found in everyday situations, which enables young children immediately to immerse themselves into the program and progress quickly. New innovative technology features include advanced speech recognition technology that gets students speaking from the start and an intuitive user interface that captivate students and keeps them engaged in learning. With Rosetta Stone, students can work independently and teachers can concentrate on the personal instruction and interactive classroom activities that promote fluency."

Art/Literacy Co-Op
I've talked about the art co-op that Sam was in last year.  This year, the same family is adding a literacy component to it.  So in addition to art every other Thursday, Sammie will stay on for different lessons revolving around specific books.  The teacher (a retired first grade teacher) will choose a theme, then read an appropriate piece of literature, then conduct an activity in science, math, health or social studies related to the theme.

Read Alouds
This is not a revolutionary concept: reading aloud to your children.  Grandaddy has agreed to read to Sammie every day from a special list.  We're going to get them from the library, but for all you grandparents and aunts and uncles, any of these books are great gifts to give the kids!  Click here to see the entire list. We're starting with The Boxcar Children and will move onto Johnny Appleseed in honor of the coming apple season.  The reading time is primarily for Sammie, but anyone who wants to hear, can listen too!

If anyone is interested, I may post our family schedule for the Fall, so you can see how it's all "supposed" to work.  Besides the ever important reading and math time, I believe there's so much more to her learning that just doesn't come from a workbooks.  You'll be able to see how our day is made up of music and exercise and gardening and reading for fun and Bible time and cooking. Well...I'll save that for another day.

Sammie had fun making a list of her school supplies and we even got some for Chase.  Chase's consisted of boy-related water coloring books, an octopus play-doh set, building doo dads, some used educational videos and farm equipment sticker books.  

I am so excited about it already, I can hardly wait until the 13th.  


Friday, August 8, 2008

Ava and Taz

Ava really loves dogs and she always wants to "hode dem." This is Ava "hoding" my mom's westie, Taz. Her hair looks even redder next to a white dog, doesn't it?


Monday, August 4, 2008

Back to School -- Why the Arnold's Home School

School starts August 13th around here.  And, yes, my sweet Sammie will begin Kindergarten and we've chosen to teach her at home.

Ten or fifteen years ago, all I knew of homeschooling was that "usually those kids are socially awkward, right?"  Years later, after lots of research and lots of time with children who are schooled at home, I realize the ignorance of that statement.

There are so many resources on-line and in bookstores, magazines and the library that list hundreds of pros and cons of homeschooling.  If you want that list....go there. There is no perfect way, I don't think.  There are pros and cons public school, private school and home schooling.  We believe that home schooling, for now, will give Sammie the best foundation to succeed in life.

This is a brief list about why we have chosen to homeschool Samantha for Kindergarten this year.  (A list not only for my two readers, but as a reminder to me throughout the year.)

Family Priorities
Since all our family is out of town, we'd love to keep our schedules flexible enough to visit when we want to or go help when we need to.  Short and simple reason, but one of the biggies.

Customized Learning
I know everyone thinks their kid is the smartest of all children everywhere.  I truly believe that people are so ignorant about kids in general until they have their own and see them everyday... learning and growing and blossoming before their eyes. (I count myself in that list, for sure.) Well, I don't know about the smartest, but I do think Sam has wonderfully diverse interests for a 5-year old.  At home, we can learn math by trying new recipes in our own kitchen.  We can practice Spanish one on one or by playing customized computer games.  We can learn music by exposing her to dozens of songs a week while she does her chores or sings with me at the piano every day.  She can choose the books that interest her while she practices reading and she can practice writing by making our grocery list or agenda for the day.  I could write about this one for days and will probably blog more in-depth about it throughout the year.

And as a bonus, for as long as Grandaddy is with us and able to read, she'll have daily reading time with him.  PRECIOUS!

Sad but true.  I can't imagine loading everyone up twice a day to take her to and from Kindergarten.  I was reminded of this during PDO Summer Session a few weeks ago. You may not believe that would make my top ten list, but it does!

Customized Socialization
We get to choose who she plays with.  Soon enough she'll have to choose for herself who the best influences are, but five is awfully young to ask her to do that on her own for six hours a day, five days a week.  Homeschooling also allows her to be comfortable around people of all ages, learning that adults aren't scary and that siblings are actually her best friends.

My brother, sister and I went to a parochial elementary school where respect for people, guidelines and education were foremost. Above all that, though, was a respect for our faith and we were taught how to blend our faith into our every day lives including education. Prayer was a part of every day and we even got to plan and/or participate in services sometimes. I've never asked my folks how much that cost, but we looked into it here and just for Kindergarten it's almost four thousand dollars. FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS!?!?!? The bottom line is, we're too frugal to pay that much to learn colors and numbers. We'd rather put that money in a college fund.

No Peer Pressure or Falling Behind "Classroom Pace"

Some things Sammie will pick up quickly and some things she won't.  I believe everyone learns at a different pace and homeschooling will allow us to teach her at her own pace. If she needs more time on math, we can give it.  We can be creative about how to make it real to her.  If she breezes through hand writing, then we can move on to cursive more quickly.  I don't want her to be so frustrated in a classroom because they barrel ahead of her or bored because she understood quantum physics years ago.  At home, she can be praised on her own merits and not by comparison to 30 other kids learning at different rates.

It's Sometimes About Me

My mom was right.  I should have gotten a degree in education.  I was pretty selfish and not child-oriented when I was in school, so I thought an education degree was ridiculous.  Now I know how much potential I see in every child...not just my own.  Great teachers are such a huge part in our kids' lives, not only to educate, but to shape character and be mentors for a lifetime. Someday, when my children don't need me every day, I hope to be able to teach in some capacity, so I'm using this as a stepping stone for educating myself as well as my kids.

Joy of Learning
More than anything, my goal for this one year is to instill a joy of learning in Sammie.  I want school to be interesting and challenging and yes, FUN!  If she doesn't get everything on the lesson plans, it really is ok.  It's just Kindergarten.  

The first thing on my lesson plan is to make sure at the end of the year, she can't wait for first grade.  If that happens, I'll give us all an A+.


Friday, August 1, 2008

Truth in Fiction

I love to read.  Lately, I've made time for some great fiction.  I have a friend who never reads it. (You know who you are.)  But I like it for so many reasons.  First, just to get lost in a story.  Movies are good for that, too, but that's only an hour and a half.  AND, books are better for your brain than movies, in my opinion.  Second, I love fiction because it drops me in worlds that I may never visit in this life.  And third, but not last of the many more reasons I love fiction, it can paint pictures of life lessons that I might not even think about otherwise.  

I read The Time Traveler's Wife solely on the recommendation of a smart and funny friend of mine.  It's not something I'd choose just reading the jacket.  For a full review, go here.  In short, it's a love story about a man who travels through time, not of his own free will, about 30 or so years back and usually only as far as 10 years in the future. (I'm not so great with math, but I think it goes from early 1960s to about 2006.)  

Besides it being a clever story, I found it interesting to think about time travel.  Not in a science fiction, dysfunctional chromosome kind of way.  I just realized as I read that some of us do that now. Yes, time travel, I mean.  And even, it seems, as a result of our own free will.  In the book, Henry, travels back in time over and over to a tragedy in his childhood. (He goes to other times, too, but that's a common repeat.) However, he can't change anything.  Can't prevent anything.  But he goes back and goes back and goes back.  Things that happened so fast the first time, he did have opportunity to dissect by revisiting the next few times.  But after that, what good does it do to go back again and again?  

Do you have a memory like that?  One that takes you back to a tragedy that you can't change? One that you can learn from by dissecting, but beyond that, you can't "undo."  I have lots of times.  Some are tragedies and some are just dumb mistakes I made that I wish I hadn't.  I know God has us remember for good learn, to grow, to strengthen and, for mercy sakes, to keep from doing it again!  But it's a conscious effort to remember, without re-living and re-condemning.  Go back there if you must, but only to keep from making the same mistakes again.

This Henry, could also travel to the future.  The interesting thing is that, of course, without the entire context, it was just as confusing.  (It's hard to explain this thought without spoiling things in the book.) A "part" of one question was answered by catching a peek, but then there were another hundred questions that came with that one glimpse. And then the big question: how many decisions, once he got "back to his present" did he make trying to make that glimpse a reality?  (Anyone remember that Tom Cruise movie Minority Report, where he finally gets to see what those creepy water things saw but how he got there he could NEVER have put together on his own.)  

I know I also spend time wondering things I'll never know until I get there.  Will I have more kids?  Boys? Girls? Will Brian and I still be married after 63 years?  To each other?  Will Grandaddy live to be 115 like that woman in France?  Will I invest my next 20 years into my children only to have them be vagrants, jailbirds or worse?  Will we EVER get invited to play cards anywhere again?

If I really could glimpse into my future, would I?  And then, should I?

As it stands, all we can do is picture the future we want and take steps today to get to that place.  So much unknown, so much we can't control, so much bigger the plans God has than we can ask or imagine.  Why limit that with my own little mind?

The Bible says not to worry about tomorrow, so I guess that answers that.  While I won't "worry", I do hope there is more fiction in my future!

What are you reading?  I'm always open to suggestions.