Monday, July 19, 2010

Massachusetts 2010: Family, Baseball, Quilt, and Ear Infection

We just returned home from our annual summer trip to visit family in Massachusetts.  Thankfully, we got the AC in the van fixed before we left, because the temps were in the high nineties! Last summer we made the 14 hr trip in July with no AC, and the kids were threatening mutiny if we tried that again!

As always, it was wonderful to spend time with my parents, Mark's mom, and our brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews.

Mark, Jason, and Sarah were able to go to Fenway Park to see the Boston Red Sox play against the Texas Rangers on Thursday night.  Jason is a huge fan!

Amanda worked all week on a quilt that she started a few years back, but she and Grammy got it almost completely done this week! Gram will finish adding the border and backing and then have it machine quilted. It is GORGEOUS!

 Friday was Amanda's 17th birthday!  We went to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner. The food there was delicious!   She would have enjoyed it more if she wasn't suffering from an awful ear infection that started the day before.  Friday morning, Mark took her to a walk-in Urgent Care clinic in RI to get an antibiotic. He wasn't terribly impressed with the place.  We found that there  are very few walk-in clinics in southern MA - and we desperately wanted to avoid the expense of a visit to the hospital ER. 

We drove back home via Lynchburg, VA, where we dropped Amanda off at Liberty University for a week of Worldview Academy Leadership Camp.  Good thing we planned to arrive a day early, because we had to make another trip to Urgent Care ( thankfully, there was one right across the street from our hotel that was open until 8pm on Saturday!)  The ear canal was swollen  and very painful, and had been draining liquid all day - with little to no relief from the meds started the day before. This time, the doctor spent a LITTLE more time and actually cleaned out the ear so she could see what was going on in there. She prescribed a different antibiotic, some ear drops, and a decongestant.  Things weren't looking much better 24 hours later at camp registration.  But I'm praying that there is marked improvement today! 

***I can't load pictures until Amanda gets home with her camera, because my camera refuses to cooperate with my computer.  But come back in a few days to see the pictures that go along with this post!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Curriculum Choices

This fall we will start our 16th year of homeschooling.  I have generally considered myself an eclectic relaxed homeschooler, leaning toward Charlotte Mason and Classical ideas and at times incorporating Unit Studies into our school plans.

In those early years, I used Miquon Math , Greenleaf Press, LLATL, BJU Press, the library, and Ruth Beechick methods.

Over the years, as my children and I changed and grew and as new children were added to the family, many, many other homeschool materials found a home on my bookshelves...

Saxon math, Easy Grammar, Considering God's Creation,  

 Apologia science, KONOS, Prairie Primer, Beautiful Feet history guides, Progeny Press literature guides, Writing Strands, Wordsmith, Explode the Code, Five in a Row.

Editor in Chief, Journey Through Grammar Land, Jacobs Algebra, Chalkdust, Video Text, Diana Waring history, Heart of Wisdom, Simply Grammar, PowerGlide, Rosetta Stone, Spelling Power, Teaching Textbooks, AO Lifepacs,

Latina Christiana, Write Shop, Horizons Math, Winston Grammar, Artistic Pursuits, and now Tapestry of Grace

Why so many? My husband asks that question too. 
  • First of all, there isn't a perfect curriculum out there and  if you just find it, you have won!  Each child has different needs, different strengths and weaknesses, and one of the beauties of homeschooling is the ability to individualize.  So evaluating what is working in your school and what is not is a yearly ( and sometimes more frequent ) job.  What worked well for one child might not work for the next. And what worked in elementary years might be the wrong choice for upper grades.
  • The big picture is to provide a rich educational environment for our children, not just a stack of books. Teaching to our child's strengths and building up their areas of weakness requires a variety of approaches, materials, and experiences!  
  • Children might not be working "on grade level" across the board.  
  • Curriculum is a great tool, and sometimes more than one tool is needed for a job. You as a teacher control the curriculum, and not the other way around. So sometimes I use a bit of this, and supplement it with some of that.
  •  I also have to admit to being a bit of a  "curriculum junkie", and I love the variety of approaches and materials available to us as homeschoolers.  I hate choosing one thing off a restaurant menu, and love a good salad bar! 
So there you go.   It is overwhelming at first, but after a while choosing curriculum becomes a great adventure!  My trusted guides in the early years were Mary Pride and Cathy Duffy, who wrote curriculum review guides that I read from cover to cover.  Today the internet abounds with homeschool curriculum reviews, some of which I've linked to in this post. Just remember that because our families are unique, what works for one family might not work for you. There are also lots and lots of used curriculum message boards and local used book fairs and used book stores where you can sell what you no longer need... so be fearless!  If you make a mistake, someone else will be happy to take it off your hands as they fill their curriculum toolbox.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

James 4:1-2
 1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.

Philippians 2:1-4
  1If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

My very least favorite part of group leadership is dealing with conflict. Things run pretty smoothly most of the time, but every once in a while there are issues between people that just do not resolve themselves. And when those disagreements affect the reputation of our group, or our ability to minister, or are severely damaging relationships,  then it is my job as a leader to get involved and try to help find a resolution. Thankfully, God's Word offers good counsel in this area.  Also, a resource called Peacemaker Ministries gives help through articles and resources that teach and help you apply those conflict resolution principles found in God's Word. The excellent advice found there includes this following Peacemaking and Reconciliation Commitment:
• Whenever we are faced with conflict, our primary goal will be to glorify God with our thoughts, words and actions (1 Cor. 10:31).
• We will try to get the “logs” out of our own eyes before focusing on what others may have done wrong (Matt. 7:3-5).
• We will seek to overlook minor offenses (Prov. 19:11).
• We will refrain from all gossip, backbiting and slander (Eph. 4:29-32). If we have a problem with others, we will talk to them, not about them.
• We will make “charitable judgments” toward one another by believing the best about each other until we have facts that prove otherwise (1 Cor. 13:7).
• If an offense is too serious to overlook, or if we think someone may have something against us, we will go promptly to seek reconciliation (Matt.
5:23-24; 18:15).
• When we offer a word of correction to others, we will do so graciously and
gently, with the goal of serving and restoring them, rather than beating them down (Prov. 12:18; Eph. 4:29; Gal. 6:1).
• When someone tries to correct us, we will ask God to help us resist prideful defensiveness and to welcome correction with humility (Ps. 141:5; Prov. 15:32).
• When others repent, we will ask God to give us grace to forgive them as he has forgiven us (Eph. 4:32).

• When we discuss or negotiate substantive issues, we will look out for others’ interests as well as our own (Phil. 2:3-4).
• When two of us cannot resolve a conflict privately, we will seek the mediation
of wise people in our church or Christian community and listen humbly to their counsel. (Matt. 18:16; Phil. 4:2-3)

Chances are, you'll find this information helpful at some point in your life. 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. 
Matthew 5:9

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy Independence Day

the 4th stanza of our National Anthem.....

Oh thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescured land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er tha land of the free and the home of the brave!

Happy 4th of July and God Bless America.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Blog Signature

I finally figured out how to create a blog signature! On My Live Signature, you can choose from dozens of fonts, sizes, and colors to create a snazzy signature to add to your blog or email! Just follow the directions to convert to HTML,  and copy the HTML code.  Sign into your blog on Blogger, click on Settings, then Formatting. Go to the bottom of the page, and paste the code into the Post Template box.   Then Save.   That's it.  Every time you start a new post, the signature will already be there.  
Try it! 

TOG Co-op Down & Dirty

That may sound odd, but "Down and Dirty" was what we called our day-long Co-op planning meeting yesterday. ( I believe the term is used by Marcia Somerville, the author of the TOG curriculum - we didn't make that up )  Eleven of the thirteen moms in our TOG Co-op met from 9:30 am until almost 4:00 pm at my friend Eve's house to hammer out some guidelines, policies, and plans in preparation for our 4th year together this fall. 

One of our first tasks was to name our group. For 3 years we have just been the "TOG Co-op".  But the church where we meet wanted us to have a more descriptive name, I guess to differentiate us from any other Co-ops that might want to meet there.  So we threw out some possibilities - Time Travellers, Truth Seekers, Many Minds-One Heart, Motley Crew, Threads, Grace, World Explorers - but the winning name was....... LOLLAPALOOZA!   Yes, we are the Lollapalooza TOG Co-op,  ....  and that is just plain FUN.  The definition is actually "something excellent or outstanding of its kind"!  

Once named, we spent some time working on a Vision Statement that would sum up our goals and purposes as a group.   This is what we came up with:

The Lollapalooza TOG Co-op is dedicated to glorifying God as we support and enrich the educational experience of each family while utilizing our strengths and gifts. We encourage excellence through a variety of activities that enhance our studies associated with the Tapestry of Grace curriculum.

Glorify God.
Enrich Education.
Encourage Excellence.

Next, we talked about our Code of Conduct.  Again, we are not a new Co-op, but felt it was time to put these things into writing and create a Handbook for each family, so that policies and expectations were clearly stated and presented to every parent and child.  We decided that our Code of Conduct was centered around the word "RESPECT".    Respect for Christ, Respect for Self, Respect for Others, and Respect for the Facility.  Under that, we stated that each person was expected to honor Christ in their words, actions, attitudes, and appearance.

Colossians 3:12  
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,  
giving thanks to God the Father through him. 

Then we got specific, including rules, or at least expectations, about things like cell phones, attendance, dress, being prepared for class, cleaning up after lunch, etc.  etc. etc.

One of the new things we decided to implement this year is unit reports, which will be feedback given to each parent about how the children are doing in their classes - behavior, preparedness, participation, attitude.  Everyone felt that this would perhaps motivate the kids to put forth their best effort, knowing that they would be evaluated in some way by their teachers, and that teachers and moms would be talking together about those evaluations!  So we'll be coming up with a checklist of some kind for our Rhetoric class - attendance, Accountability Questions done, homework done, participation in discussion, quiz grades, etc. Our Co-op is supplemental to the work each family is doing at home, therefore we do not give "grades", but it will be valuable for all of us to have some gauge of what the kids are bringing to class. 

We discussed our academic goals and standards for the Co-op.  Basically, we are a history / literature Co-op, and individual classes may also include geography, worldview, philosophy, and/or fine arts.  What we do in Co-op is enrich and enhance the studies of each family, not teach the material. We are more than a glorified play group - we do meet for a social purpose, but also for an academic and spiritual purpose. And really, that makes all the difference. That is why we are willing to devote one day a week to our Co-op meeting, and push ourselves to keep up with the pace of the TOG weekly plan. There is an academic, social, and spiritual BENEFIT to meeting together each week. 

After we worked through the calendar and agreed on days off, half days, and teacher meetings, we talked about our Unit Celebrations for Year 4.  Unit Celebrations are special days at the end of each 9-week unit where we all do something fun together - sometimes to perform, sometimes to share the things we have learned, sometimes to include the dads.  Next year we decided to have a Unit 1 Hall of Fame, where all the kids will choose a person to dress up as and talk about; a WWII movie ( right before Christmas);  a 1950's sock hop / soda shoppe; and a family trip to Washington, DC!   

Lots to look forward to as we embark on our journey through the 20th Century!