Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fall pics

I've been a lazy blogger lately, but have been wanting to at least post some recent pics. It's been a great fall!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Homeschool Memoirs#4: Something new

I blogged about our general plans in week 2 here. You can also see a pretty comprehensive list of our resources and curricula in my sidebar. In this our second year of homeschooling I'm using several resources which are new to us. Most of these are working out well. I'm very grateful for the seasoned advice that I've received IRL from some local moms as well as the variety of information available on the net at places like homeschoolreviews. Since we're leaning towards the classical way of doing things my virtual friends at the Well Trained Mind forums have been most helpful of all.

I've always found in depth grammar study to be quite frustrating. Last year we trudged our way through Abeka's grade 5 level worktext. It was certainly a comprehensive course, but we all began dreading it. So I spent much of the summer in search of something that would be a better fit for our family and we thankfully found Easy Grammar.

This is the way that I wish I'd been taught! Their method of identifying prepositional phrases first makes it much easier to find the subjects, verbs, and other sentence parts. It's easy on the teacher also with small, concise lessons that are well scripted. While Abeka often seemed to overload us with explanation and exercises, Easy Grammar seems to have just the right amount of practice for us. I love it when I find something so simple that works so well. We strongly considered some other options such as Analytical Grammar and Winston Grammar, but I'm confident that we made the right choice in the end.

I'm looking forward to reading about other's gems. It's fun to explore something new.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Love and boundaries

I've been spending much of my quiet time lately in a devotional study on love. I've also been reading a book called "Boundaries" during this same time. Both have spoken strongly to my heart...

Like many I often feel emptied and drained by loving others sacrificially. We hear often about the sufficiency of God's grace for us sinners, but we fail to remind ourselves that His love is sufficient also (at least I do). When I give and give... and give some more, but expect others to fill me back up I am so often disappointed. They don't give enough or they don't give in the way that I want them to.

I've been reminded lately that God IS love. In fact He is perfect and complete love (1 John4:8-12). For Him it is not a choice or a feeling it is an undeniable part of Him. He can't help loving us. He will never forget us (Isaiah 49:15-16). He loves us so much that He has engraved us into the palms of His hands. He sent His son to die for us while we were still sinners. Nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39).

As sons and daughters of Christ we are also blessed to have His spirit within us. Part of that "package deal" is an unendless supply of His love. We can rely on His love in all places and at all times (1John 4:13, John15:9). One of the fruits of the spirit is love (Gal. 5:22). When we ask the Lord to fill us He is so happy to do so(to Romans 5:5). We can rest and abide in this love (1John 4:16) and when we choose to do so we find ourselves filled to the point of overflow. I've begun to think of my heart like a sponge that God is willing to completely saturate, I can't seem to help but drip my excess onto others.

When I'm filled this way I don't have the same expectations of those around me. I do want to be treated nicely (and I'm entitled to be treated this way) but I realize that they are not responsible for my happiness or spiritual well being and I'm not responsible for theirs either. Because perfect love is without fear (1 John 4:18) and in fact, casts out fear, I find myself navigating relationships more confidently and securely. I will never be without love and I need not operate out of guilt or fear.

When I am truly plugged in to God's outlet of love I'm able to love others around me with a Christlike heart. When I choose to serve or give I am doing so willingly. My 'yes' is yes and my 'no' is no (Matt. 5:37).

Better understanding and receiving God's love for me has been an incredible gift. Allowing myself to set loving boundaries with others has been freeing as well. I am humbled by my Savior's love for me and grateful to Him for showing me how to share that love with others without losing myself in the process.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Homeschool memoirs: Agenda

I am such a planner and I spent many months this spring and summer choosing curriculum for this our first, full year of homeschool. Last year, when we began in January, the process was much simpler. I went with a simple textbook approach (mostly Abeka) that I could find available used at a reasonable price. For History and Science I placed them mostly based on what topics matched most closely to what they'd been studying in public school. This year though we wanted to use a more classical approach that included lots of literature.

You can find a list of our current curricula in the sidebar. We're using many literature recommendations from Susan Wise Bauer's The Well Trained Mind to round things out. Our students are ages 12 (7th grade), 10 (5th grade), and 6 (first grade). For the most part I'm quite pleased with our choices. I'll categorize a few of the standouts for you based on our opinions so far (third week of school).

Happiest with:

Easy Grammar: (7th and 5th graders) This was a 'eureka' for our older girls. We love the prepositional phrase method. I also appreciate how little teacher prep. is involved.

Draw and Write through History:(all) Our 7th grader is technically studying the Renaissance, not ancients, this year but she's begged to join in on this one. Art has become one of the week's most anticipated events this year. This curriculum would also be great for cursive practice for an upper elementary student although we don't use it that way.

AVKO Spelling: (1st) We're modifying this a bit by breaking the daily lists into even smaller chunks for her, but we are seeing fabulous results so far. She also thinks that doing spelling daily on a whiteboard is much more exciting than the weekly paper/pencil tests she sees her big sisters do.

MCP Plaid Phonics: (1st) This is perfect for reinforcement and a bit of seat work for dd.

Mystery of History:(5th) We're studying Ancients with our younger two using Biblioplan as a rough schedule and for it's scheduled reading list. This text is awesome! I find it quite engaging ad readable, with just the perfect amount of information. I like most of all how the Christian worldview is emphasized. I almost wish that I was using it exclusively with both students. But now we'll have something to look forward to with our younger ones on their second trip through the history cycle.

Victor's Journey Through the Bible is also a great resource. We're referring to it almost daily. It really adds a lot to our readings from Vos' Story Bible.

Doing the job:

Saxon Algebra 1 w/DIVE:(7th) A good fit for my mathematically advanced student. I think it's a great, solid program overall but the text is unwieldy, the fonts too small (IMO), and the pages crowded. But it's working and dd is happy with it. She's been doing Saxon right along so we'll be sticking with it.

Latina Christiana 1:(5th and 7th) This text is also dry and I wish a few more practice/reinforcement exercises were included. I often find myself making my own and that's honestly dangerous. A Latin scholar I am not! But, like Saxon math above, we chose this based on scope and sequence. It's working, just not exciting anyone around here.

Wordly Wise 3000 book 7:(7th) I love this, dd doesn't. We're using it as both a spelling and a vocabulary program. We'll be sticking with it, at least for this year.

Disappointed with:

Story of the World Vol.1:(5th and 1st) I wanted to love this one, and fully expected to based on the many glowing recommendations it's received. Perhaps my expectations were too high. I can say that I did not realize quite how secular it was. As young earth creationists we don't agree with many of the dates thus far, so time lining has been complicated. Some of the literature recommendations don't suit our taste either. As we're following the BP schedule we are jumping around a lot, that could be part of the problem. Some of the map activities in the activity guide have been great. My 1st grader also enjoys the coloring pages. I hope that as we progress forward historically these conflicts won't be such an issue.

Singapore Math: (5th and 1st) This could really be posted in two categories... It's working great for my 1st grader. She's using 1B as she tested out of 1A prior to the start. We are coming to this program from Saxon. We made the switch for our younger students because they were not happy with Saxon and wanted something different. We chose Singapore as they often need less review than average for a given concept and we were impressed with their word problems. It's not working out nearly so well for our 5th grader. We are both highly frustrated. I didn't anticipate the handicap that we'd have starting the program at level 4A. We just don't have enough understanding of their method at times. Thus we're often unable to do many of the word problems (at least non-algebraically) which was one of the major selling points of the program for us in the first place! I'm hoping perseverance will pay off here, but if it doesn't get better within a few weeks we may be dusting off the Saxon for her.

Those are the items that are our standouts so far. Adding time lining and mapping this year in History has also been great. We made our own timeline binders based on a suggestion I found here. For our first grader we're using a mix of SOTW review cards and MOH tidbits to help her assemble a smaller and more manageable 4x6 index card binder. We're drawing some of our own figures in art class and using a variety of other freebies. It's like scrapbooking and history rolled into one. We're really enjoying it!

I don't know that there's a specific scripture I'd reference for planning in particular. But I often find myself referring to several verses in Proverbs 3 ...

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.

-Proverbs 3: 3, 5, 13

Then, of course, there is Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

All in all we're off to a great start. 2008-2009 should be a great year for our family!

Monday, August 25, 2008

A bloggy makeover 101

I'd been feeling for awhile that this blog was in dire need of a makeover. I finally had the time to tend to it this past weekend. There are loads of sites with free templates that you can use. I chose one from here. The tricky bit honestly was in not losing my widgets, those nifty little gadgets and signs in the right hand column. I found great instructions for doing that here, but in the end, being the simplistic type, I chose to copy and paste each one into a word pad file in the order that I wanted to place them back. Then once the new page was up and running I recreated each one relatively quickly.

Hmmm, perhaps I'll end up rearranging things more often around here. Anyhow I'd appreciate feedback on the new look. Let me know what you think...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Homeschool Memoirs

I'm excited to start this weekly meme and excited to meet some fellow homeschool mommy blogggers as well. This week's assignment asks us to share a bit about ourselves. I can talk forever about my family, but I had to think a bit about this one. Isn't the first assignment supposed to be an easy one?

Well, I've been married to my dh for around a dozen years now, though it often does seem like just yesterday that we met. God's ways are perfect and it is so evident in His choice to match us together. We are vastly different in some ways, each with our unique strengths and weakness, but on the big things we see eye to eye. When we first married our relationship with the Lord was honestly a much more casual and compartmentalized one (of the every once in a while on a Sunday variety). As years passed and our family grew, He led us to realize that we were missing the boat... big time. Christ's amazing mercy and unfailing love are so evident in His desire to reclaim His wandering sheep. How wonderful that the all powerful God of this universe truly wants to have a close relationship with each and every one of us!

When we began to truly seek after His will for our lives again, we made some cursory changes. We spent more time in daily prayer, saturated our hearts with His word, sought fellowship with like-minded believers, got involved in serving our church (and attending a bit more often :-) ), etc. These were all positive changes, but pretty easy ones. But when we really began listening to the Lord's whispers we found He was always calling us further, out of our comfort zones, to follow Him to places we'd never dreamed we'd go.

First, a few years ago, He called us to leave our home, family, and friends in New England and to begin life in another place. Then He almost immediately blessed us with our fourth child- one we'd long given up expecting. He also let me know, in no uncertain terms, that I was to make my home my primary ministry, giving up my position in our church's preschool as a teacher.

By early 2007 the Lord began whispering to us about our children's education. Until then they'd attended both public and Christian schools at various times. They were academically successful, quite happy, and generally well liked by both children and adults. On the surface all was well.=Thankfully, when we don't listen to His quiet leadings, the Lord often will take more drastic measures to get make us take notice. He did so in this case with an escalating series of attention grabbers that ultimately led to our decision to begin homeschooling. The decision itself came after an extended time of prayer and really wrestling with God. Oh, we knew at this point what He wanted us to do, but we didn't like the idea, at least not at first. Dh teaches Chemistry in a public high school. I, too, had spent several years in the classrooms of public and private schools. Hey, we were both products of the public school system and we turned out alright?!? Plus, I had all these 'ideas' about homeschooling and homeschooled kids for that matter.

So, why did we take the plunge?

Well first and foremost because God told us to. In that process He convinced us a few things:

1)The importance of training our children's hearts and not just their minds.

2)The fact that few things are truly neutral. Life cannot exist in a vacuum. When we remove something, it is inevitably replaced. We feel that to the extent that Biblical values and teachings have been removed from our schools they have been replaced by secular humanism and atheism. We realized this was both counter productive and potentially dangerous.

3)How much easier it is to live as Christian when you have a truly Biblical worldview.

4)That the responsibility to disciple our children rests firmly on our shoulders.

I'd like to clarify and state that we are not convinced or 'convicted' as many would say that homeschooling is the only, or even the best way, to accomplish this. It is simply the best way for our family to accomplish this at this time.

I absolutely believe that there are families led to send their children to both public and private schools. I also believe that we are blessed to have many wonderful and incredible Christian teachers who reach and teach many young people in these schools. Children who might never know the Lord otherwise. I am proud to count my dh amongst these. I attend an incredible church which provides my children with invaluable fellowship and teachings. Still, the Lord led us to believe that we needed to take a more personal and active role in the education of our girls.

The Lord has greatly rewarded our obedience. I'm often asked by friends and family members how I'm able to 'handle' homeschooling. They imply that I'm either some breed of super mom or just plain crazy. We'd often heard folks say, "When the Lord calls you to do something. He equips you for it." We've seen the evidence of that first hand this year. As with our move a few years back, it's clearly evident when the Lord is working in your midst. He brought together all the pieces necessary for us to begin this new chapter in our lives- the hearts of our children were prepared, the materials available, and the support folks who mentored us appeared in our lives.

This year, our second year of homeschooling, is shaping up to be an exciting one. Our daughters are in 7th, 5th, and 1st grade. We also have a 15mth old precious one who keeps us on our toes. We've begun to lean toward the 'classical' way of doing things around here. You'll find our curricula list on my sidebar as well as additional information about our family. We post photo updates often so feel free to browse and take a peek into our lives.

I appreciate the opportunity to share my heart with you.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Foto Friday- New England Trip

It was a whirlwind trip and the weather wasn't very cooperative but it was great to catch up with friends and family. Here are a few pics...