Monday, November 25, 2013

The Homeschool Mentor #1: 5 Reasons to Homeschool

an experienced and trusted adviser.
synonyms:adviser, guide, guru, counselor, consultant

I love being a mentor to new homeschool moms and  to younger women in general.    It is one of the good things about "getting older.  I led a mentor group of 8 new homeschool moms this fall, and really enjoyed getting to know them and sharing information from the mentor manual, Home Education 101, byVicki Bentley,  as well as from my nearly 20 years of experience as home educator.
It dawned on me that I could share those things here on my blog as well.  So here we have a new series of posts: The Homeschool Mentor.

First up:  Reasons to Homeschool

A quick Google search will bring up many, many lists of reasons to homeschool, as well as few lists of reasons NOT to homeschool.  My list won't be unique, but nonetheless, here is MY list of some reasons to homeschool.

1. INDIVIDUALITY.  Each child is uniquely and wonderfully made, with individual strengths, weaknesses, talents, and challenges.  It is a common observation among parents to see a young child who is bubbling with enthusiasm, energy, curiosity, and excitement for learning when they start school become increasingly discouraged, disinterested and distressed as time goes by. Just as not all babies are ready to walk or talk at exactly the same time,  so children are not ready to read or write or learn fractions at exactly the same time.  Homeschooling lets you go slowly or speed things up, depending on the needs and readiness of each child. The ability to individualize a child's education according to his learning style  and particular talents is  a tremendous benefit, and something that a classroom teacher cannot do.  The institutional nature of traditional schools, with emphasis on conformity and test scores,  is stifling instead of inspiring. The social atmosphere in schools does not nurture children's individuality and make them feel safe and secure, but instead fosters conformity and cliques  and a battle for survival of the fittest and most popular.  Parents rationalize the suffering of their children as "part of life", "a necessary evil", "learning to deal with reality", etc.   Allowing your children to grow up free from that kind of pressure and stress is a wonderful gift, and I believe it will make them stronger, not weaker, in the long run.

2.  STRONG FAMILY.  A family that spends every day learning together builds strong connections. Part of the teaching that a homeschool parent must do also involves dealing with conflict, respecting one another, showing kindness, developing patience, etc., but these lessons have life-long benefits!  My five children, spanning 13 years  from oldest to youngest, are all great friends and enjoy spending time together as adults.  They also like coming home and being with us... and they often bring friends with them who enjoy the laid-back, fun-loving, affectionate  atmosphere of our home

3. FAITH and VALUES.   Everyone has them, everyone teaches them.  There is no such thing as value-neutral education.  Every curriculum writer, every author, every teacher, every administrator has a worldview, which is simply a set of assumptions about what is true and right, and that will come through in what information is presented and how it is presented in a lesson.  Everyone has a set of values and everyone puts their hope and faith in SOMETHING.  Educators, books, experiences, peers - all these things have a mighty influence on the development of a child's values and worldview, and home education allows parents to choose materials, teachers, and experiences that will nurture and develop the values of the family, rather than of the "school" or of "society".

4. FREEDOM.  Embracing the homeschool lifestyle is intensely freeing. It is "outside-the box".  Your family's schedule is your own, and not dictated by a school.  You decide what time to get up in the morning, when to go on vacation, how long to spend on a lesson. You can spend the entire day reading aloud from a great novel or watching historical DVDs.  You can do school 4 days a week or 6 days a week.  You choose the books and materials that appeal to you and your children, and adapt them however works best for you! You can make volunteer work or missions work part of your school curriculum, or focus on the arts this semester and the sciences next semester, or do schoolwork at the beach or on the back porch or under a blanket fort.  It is true that each state has its own requirements, and some  are more restrictive or demanding than others.  But homeschooling is not just "school at home", and can look and feel VERY different from institutional schooling, and produce wonderfully intelligent, creative, compassionate and interesting adults!

5. GIFT OF CHILDHOOD.  Children today are expected to "grow up" so quickly, and the hours spent in school plus a typical busy family schedule leaves little time for imaginative play, for just being a kid!  My adult children express gratitude for their childhood, and for the fact that they had time to play, explore, investigate, and dream.  TV and video game time was limited. Craft materials were readily available and mess-making was okay. School lessons were broken up by breaks for outdoor or indoor play.  Blanket forts, homemade play dough, building blocks and LEGOs, American Girl dolls and stuffed toys, Polly Pockets, baseball trading cards, Matchbox cars, board games,  musical instruments, Nerf guns, the costume box featured prominently in our daily life.   Entertainment - television, movies, music - was chosen carefully.  They may have heard of them, but there were no posters on the bedroom walls of pop stars, pro-athletes, or teen heart-throbs.  Innocence was protected and valued. We read fairy tales and biographies and classic stories - stories of  heroes and heroines, both real and imaginary,  who possessed courage, fortitude, compassion, conviction.  We baked cookies, went on interesting field trips, volunteered at a nursing home and food pantry, went to the library, spent time with friends.  Homeschooling allowed my husband and I to shelter our children in a good way, and give them a variety of rich and memorable experiences.

Friday, August 2, 2013

50+ Field Trips Around Raleigh, NC

updated:  7/2/16

Here is a list of fifty over sixty field trips that are close to Raleigh, NC. A couple of them are up to 3 hours away, but they are ones we have actually done in a day - get up really early and get home late - and are worth the drive. There are lots more that would require an overnight stay, but I'll put those in a different post.

  1.  Agape Center for Environmental Education (Fuquay-Varina)
  2.  Airborne and Special Ops Museum (Fayetteville)
  3.  Alamance Battleground "Colonial Week" (Burlington) Oct. 10-14, 2016
  4. ArtSpace (Raleigh) 
  5.  Alice Aycock Poe Center for Health Education (Raleigh)
  6. Blue Jay Point County Park nature classes (Raleigh)
  7. Camp Flintlock (Four Oaks) 
  8. Carolina Ballet - Nutcracker Student Matinee (Raleigh) - Dec. 
  9. Carolina Theater - Arts Discovery Educational Series (Durham) 
  10. Carolina Tiger Rescue (Pittsboro)
  11. Clemmons Educational State Forest (Clayton)
  12.  Country Doctor Museum (Bailey)
  13. Duke Homestead State Historic Site (Durham)
  14.  Duke Lemur Center (Durham) 
  15. Durant Nature Preserve (N.Raleigh)  
  16. Durham Bulls Education Days - baseball (Durham) 
  17. Fort Macon State Park (Atlantic Beach) 
  18. Grady-White Boats Factory (Greenville) 
  19. Guilford Courthouse National Military Park (Greensboro) 
  20.  Harris Energy and Environmental Center (nuclear power) (New Hill)
  21.  Hill Ridge Farms (Youngsville)
  22.  Historic Oak View County Park (Raleigh)
  23. Historic Oakwood Cemetery history tours ( Raleigh )
  24. Historic Stagville Plantation (Durham)
  25. Homeland Creamery dairy farm (Julian )
  26. Imagination Station Science and History Museum (Wilson) 
  27. Interfaith Food Shuttle Teaching Farm (Raleigh)
  28. International Civil Rights Center and Museum (Greensboro) 
  29. Joel Lane House (Raleigh) 
  30.  Lowes Foods "From the Field" Trips  (local store)
  31.  Marbles Kids Museum / IMAX Theater (Raleigh)
  32. Martin Marietta Rock Quarry (Raleigh)  
  33. Millstone Creek Apple Orchard (Ramseur)
  34. Morehead Planetarium and Science Center (Chapel Hill) 
  35.  Museum of Life and Science (Durham)
  36.  New Hope Valley Railway (New Hill) 
  37.  NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher (Kure Beach)
  38.  NC Museum of Art (Raleigh)
  39.  NC Museum of History (Raleigh)
  40. NC Museum of Natural Sciences (Raleigh)
  41. NC State Capitol (Raleigh) 
  42. NC Symphony Young People's Concerts (Raleigh)
  43.  NCSU Solar Center/Solar House (Raleigh) 
  44.  NC Transportation Museum (Spencer) 
  45. NC Zoo (Asheboro) 
  46. North Carolina State Parks (statewide)
  47.  Old Salem (Winston-Salem)
  48.  Raleigh Little Theater: Beyond the Stage Door (Raleigh)
  49.  Red Hill Farm - horses (Franklinton)
  50.  RDU Airport Observation Park (Raleigh) 
  51.  Rocky Mount Children's Museum and Science Center (Rocky Mount)
  52.  Scrap Exchange (Durham) 
  53. Snow Camp Outdoor Theater: Pathway to Freedom (Snow Camp - summer) 
  54. Tryon Palace (New Bern) 
  55. USS North Carolina (Wilmington)
  56. Videri Chocolate Factory (Raleigh)
  57.  Vollmer Farms : Pumpkin Patch and Back 40 (Bunn) Oct.
  58.  Wake Weekly newspaper (Wake Forest) 
  59.  WCPE Classical Radio Station (Wake Forest)
  60.  WRAL TV Station and Weather Center (Raleigh) 
  61.  US Post Office   ( local)  
  62. local police station /fire station

We haven't been on ALL of these field trips, but definitely a lot of them over the years -  Blue Jay Point, NC Museums of History and Natural Science, Historic Oak View,  Harris Nuclear Energy Center, USS North Carolina, WCPE Radio Station, Wake Weekly newspaper office, Morehead Planetarium, International Civil Rights Center, Duke Lemur Center.    Alamance Battleground "Colonial Week"is one of my all-time faves.  WRAL TV Station  and Weather Center was great, as well as performances at Carolina Theater, NC Symphony, and Carolina Ballet. I'm a fan of art museums, and the NC Museum of Art has a great children's program.  Airborne and Special Ops Museum in Fayetteville is fascinating for military buffs and the NC Zoo in Asheboro and Museum of Life and Science in Durham are both top notch.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Turning Off the Television

While I am not a big TV watcher, the boys in my family are.  SportsCenter is the first thing J turns on in the morning.  Sports events of all kinds, but especially basketball and baseball,  are a staple. Certain TV shows capture their attention for a while - NCIS,  Big Bang Theory, Duck Dynasty. 
And when they watch TV, I typically am on the computer, although I do enjoy a few shows too. Cupcakes Wars and So You Think You Can Dance are set up to record on our  DVR each week.   Since it is something my husband enjoys doing to unwind and relax after work, he isn't always willing to put limits on screen time.  However, from time to time, we both agree that it is time for a "No TV Month". 

We have done this numerous times over the years.  We try to be considerate of any big TV "events" that are being looked forward to, like March Madness or the Olympic Games, or even the American Idol finale, IF we have been watching all season. (we didn't watch at all last season, but were glued during the Scotty McCreery season.)  But this spring after the NCAA Championship college basketball game was over, the TVwent off.

The only exception  during "No TV month" is if I have planned something to watch for school - a movie or documentary for history, for instance.   Or extreme weather that perhaps warrants keeping tabs on the weather reports.  Otherwise, the screen is off, and while we don't forbid computer time, we do try to curtail it.  It is amazing how quiet and peaceful the house is when the TV isn't on all the time.  Much more reading gets done. Board games come out.  There is more talking.  We go on more walks  After a couple of days, nobody really misses it anymore.  After 30 days, I was more than ready to go for month 2, but got overruled.  Still it was a nice respite, and good for each of us to remember what other things we enjoy doing during "down time".

What would you do with your time if you turned the TV off for 30 days?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Ten Resources for Learning Geography

What is the largest freshwater lake in the world?

        What is the capital of Nevada?

                     Is the Tropic of Capricorn north or south of the equator?

                                     What language is spoken in Switzerland?

 I have always enjoyed learning geography - memorizing states and capitals, rivers, bodies of water, countries and continents, etc. Geography study is included in our Tapestry of Grace history curriculum, so we label outline maps and learn about the geography of the places we are reading about in history. This really helps with understanding how people and places are connected through time, and how factors like climate, topography, language, etc. play into the events of history and the way people live. In addition to outline maps, we utilized websites as well as games that I accumulated to build our geography skills.

 Another way I encouraged geography knowledge in my kids was to host a monthly Geography Club for middle schoolers/ high schoolers , where we played quiz games, geography board games, puzzles, sampled food from different countries, let the kids do presentations. and had a lot of fun! 

Here are some of our favorite geography resources that you might enjoy using to increase your and your children's geography literacy!

1. Geo Puzzles  -
These puzzles are enjoyed by young children as well as teens and adults, and will help you learn the countries and continents in a hurry!  There is a puzzle for each continent, and puzzle pieces are the shapes of countries or groups of countries. The pieces are sturdy and thick, easy for small fingers to handle, and they fit together cleanly.  Good quality.

2.  Ten Days in the Americas  ( Asia, Europe, USA, Africa )
  This board game seems complicated at first, but is surprisingly easy to learn, even for elementary age children, so the whole family can play and learn together!  Using country cards and transportation cards, you must be the first to put together a sequence of 10 cards that constitutes a  "journey" from country to country.

 3.  Professor Noggins card games
Players take turns rolling the dice and asking each other questions from the cards, choosing from the Easy or Hard section depending on the age of the player.  If you answer correctly, you get to keep the card; incorrectly and the card goes to the bottom of the pile.  The player with the most cards at the end wins!  Simple and fun way to learn or review basic facts and trivia. 


4. MegaMaps
These have been a lot of fun and a favorite in my TOG Co-op class!  With your regular printer at home, you can print outline maps of continents and countries in a variety of sizes, ranging from a single sheet of paper to an 8 page x 8 page monstrosity that is over 6 feet across!  My favorite size is 4 pages by 4 pages,  which as great size for laying on the kitchen table or taping up on wall or door.  Once printed, it takes a bit of work to tape the pages together.  I then color ( or have the kids color ) bodies of water, countries, etc with crayon, and use Sharpie markers to add whatever features I desire, like mountain ranges, stars for capital cities, etc. An atlas book or a detailed map printed off the internet is a great help with this part.  Then I cover the entire thing with clear contact paper, add self-stick Velcro dots, and print off labels on card stock, also covered with clear contact paper and stuck with a Velcro dot ( I buy them in the craft section of WalMart ).  Now I have a great, reusable teaching tool!   Put all the labels on the map and study it together, then remove the labels and use a digital kitchen timer to make a contest out of seeing who can put the labels back on correctly in the fastest time!

5.  Enchanted Learning
This has been one of my very favorite websites for printing off school enrichment activities, not just for geography, for my kids from K-8th grade!  Maps, phonics helps, graphic organizers for writing, holiday projects,  foreign language words,  fun worksheets on science topics... all kinds of neat things can be found here and are definitely worth the annual $20 fee.


This is another fun and educational card game.  Younger children will need help at first, and you may allow them to look at the enclosed map for "help", while older players have to use their memories. This game is similar to UNO, with players putting down cards on top of each other in a pile. Instead of matching a number or color, however, the card must show a geographic entity ( country, ocean, etc.) that shares a border with the previous card.  Passing is not allowed, but bluffing is.   Great fun, and you'll learn some obscure seas and bays that you never knew existed!

This is a free website with tons of learning games and quizzes for all ages  - geography, science, health, animals, history, math...    The geography games include a Tutorial level for learning, and then Beginner, Intermediate, Expert, Explorer, and even harder levels for some games, making this a site to test the knowledge of mom and dad as well as the kids.  

8. GeoSafari:   Electronic Game and Talking Globe

There was a GeoSafari electronic game under the Christmas tree our very first year of homeschooling, and it has gotten use pretty much every year since!  The styling is different now - there was no such thing as a "laptop" 19 years ago - but the fun of trying to beat the timer, or the time of your brother or sister, is still the same.  Card packs are available for just about every subject area - geography, phonics, science, art, math, history.   We've gotten a lot of mileage out of our game.  The Talking Globe is a new product that we never used, but it looks like it would be a great learning tool as well -  and every household should have a globe!

9.  National Geographic for Kids

National Geographic is the iconic source for photos and articles highlighting the variety of earth's people and places, and NG Kids has fun learning games, photos, and videos.  Teens and adults can click over to the main National Geographic site for more in-depth information.   *The magazine subscriptions are a good investment for those who like print media in their hands to encourage reading  and want a good source for photos to cut out for craft projects, etc. 

10. Mapping the World by Heart
This unique geography curriculum teaches students to draw from memory a detailed world map. 

Answers to the questions at the top of the page:
1. Lake Superior (by surface area )
2. Carson City
3. south
4.There are 4 official languages spoken in Switzerland - German, French, Italian, and Romansh

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Homeschool Love Story

 There was a little girl....

 and there was a little boy...

who grew up not that far from each other, being homeschooled, playing sports, going to summer camp...

and it was at this summer camp that they met and became friends.

Before the boy left home for college, he asked her to be his girlfriend, and she said okay.
Because here's the thing.  She really liked that boy.

It just so happened that a year later she went to the same college. And soon they fell in love.

Then one day the boy asked the girl a very important question.

 She said YES.

So they picked a date in June. Made plans for a special celebration. Invited their friends and loved ones to share the day with them. And they vowed to love, honor, cherish, and care for each other for the rest of their lives.

But that is not "The End".  It is just the beginning.... of a new and great adventure.


He Pushed the Clouds Aside...

And the rain just keeps falling... We've had one wet month of June here in the Triangle. Even as I sit here writing this, I am listening to the deluge coming down outside.  It would come as only a small surprise if we started seeing animals lining up by twos. Normal rainfall amount recorded at Raleigh-Durham airport for the average month of June is 3.52 inches. The actual amount we just received in June was 10.08 inches. See what I mean? This particular wet month of June also happened to be the month for two very special weddings - the daughter of one of my dearest friends got married on June 9th and my son married his long-time sweetheart two weeks later, on June 22nd. 

Both couples planned outdoor ceremonies. Gulp.

Weeks and weeks of planning and frantic preparations (I would say months, but I try not to lie here on this blog) led up to both of these days as two precious, young , Christian couples prepared to commit to a lifetime of love, devotion, and shared everythings before God, family, and special friends.  Neither wedding was lavish, but both were do-it-yourself celebrations marked by the contributions of time and labor by an army of loving volunteers.  As details fell into place and checklists were marked off, the one variable that could dampen the festivities ( pun intended ) was the weather.

Two days before Ellie & Jonathan's wedding, her dad posted this request on Facebook.
"Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. James 5:17
 ...I am asking all of God's people to pray as Elijah did, that God would hold back the rain, not for 3 1/2 years, but only for about 3 1/2 hours. Please LORD ! Thank you all for praying!"

That's right. All that sunshine is making her squint -  God answered this father's prayer and Ellie and Jonathan had a beautiful day for their wedding.

Jump ahead 2 weeks and several inches of rain later.  The forecast for June 22nd had started out calling for partly cloudy with widely scattered showers, but as the day drew closer, the forecast became more foreboding.   Here is my Facebook appeal from the morning of the wedding.
"The weather forecast for today has deteriorated slightly, and is now calling for scattered showers and storms. The ceremony is outdoors at 5:30pm and the reception following is partially outdoors. Please pray with us for N.Durham/Bahama to remain rain-free this afternoon and evening. Thank you!"

The wedding venue for both ceremony and reception was an hour from our house. The wedding party and a few other friends spent all morning out there setting up and then went home to get ready. Around lunchtime, the clouds started to roll in and we saw the big expanse of green ( rain ) on the Doppler radar on the local weather channel, headed straight for us. It poured at our house.  Friends in the area were reporting rain at their locations as well. We got in the cars and headed towards the venue, fully expecting to initiate Plan B, where we would pack all the guests into the small reception lodge and make the best of the weather, celebrating the new couple even as the decorations outside became drenched.  But still I prayed. "Lord, we will praise you no matter what, for You are always good and we know that Your ways are not our ways.  But I ask for Your favor. Could you just push those clouds aside over Spruce Pine Lodge,  just for a couple of hours?"

1 John 5:14  This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

As we approached Bahama, NC, we saw that the clouds overhead were breaking up.  Upon arrival at the venue, we found everything nice and dry.  And it remained that way. For the entire rest of the day. The first raindrops started to fall, no lie, as the couple was saying goodbye and walking out to their car at 10:30 pm.  And there was only a very light rain as we spent the next hour packing up, loading up, and heading home.  God pushed the clouds aside and gave my son and his bride a gorgeous outdoor June wedding...  His wedding gift to these children of His.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The 5-Year High School Plan

My youngest son will turn 15 this summer. He technically just completed 9th grade, but will actually do 9th grade again this year; or maybe he'll be in 10th grade and eventually he'll do 12th grade twice. Or we'll add on a grade 13, but that is harder to explain when people ask what grade you are in. You see, we have decided to do a 5-year plan for high school, which is a little on the unconventional side.
However, it really makes a lot of sense for us.

J has a late August birthday, putting him on the young end of his "grade-level".   Boys, especially, often are slower to launch into academic areas like reading and writing, so being young in a grade can be a developmental disadvantage. For some kids,like my son, readig and writing continue to challenge and cause struggles.  It hasn't been an issue up til now,  since as homeschoolers we have been free to adjust and individualize and adapt everything we did. But we utilize more outside classes in high school, and the work load increases greatly.  A 5-year plan allows us to spread the high school work out a little more, giving him more time on reading assignments and more time to develop his writing skills to the level he needs to be at before college.   For instance, we use Tapestry of Grace for history and literature, and it is a very reading-intensive program.  The curriculum is arranged by the week, but the amount of reading per week is compatible with a strong, fast reader.  Since J is a slow reader who needs time to digest, we will spend two weeks on every week of the TOG curriculum.  There is still plenty of content to fulfill a whole credit - we'll just have the chance really cover the material rather than skim it.

I just have to guard against my impulse to pack even more into high school, since we have that "extra year". Kind of defeats the purpose of spreading the work out.  But an extra year does give the opportunity to include additional things that you might not have time for otherwise.  hmmm,
 I just need to be a little creative....

Also, J is an athlete, and an extra year in high school will allow him even more time to build his skills and work on strength and conditioning.  He doesn't know right now if he wants to play at a college level, but he loves his high school athletic experience, and we can let him get as much out of that as he can.

So, in a nutshell, a 5-year high school plan gives the following advantages
  • time to build up weak academic areas
  • opportunity to include other areas of study that we might not have had time to include in 4 years
  • more time to devote to developing talents and interests, like athletics, music, dance, etc.
  • ability to spread academic work out to accommodate a job or travel
  • time to mature and grow in knowledge of our faith before leaving home
As homeschoolers here in NC, we have great freedom and flexibility in deciding our own curriculum and school plan, and setting our own graduation requirements and timeline.  We are not limited to following the same path as everyone else, and are free to think "outside the box". I love that. 
One down, four to go.


Friday, June 28, 2013

What Difference Does It Make?

Here is a post I wrote 2 years ago, about persevering even when it seems like it might not be making any difference.

I had dinner recently with two dear, old friends whom I haven't seen in a long time. We talked for hours about books, travel, grandchildren ( my friends are becoming grandmas!!!) , aging parents, marriage, work, and of course our kids. All homeschoolers, we spent a lot of time together when our children were younger, participating in group activities like band, sports, co-op classes, science fairs, etc. Both of these ladies have agonized over a child who has left the nest and strayed from the values of his family, making choices that have led to conflict, pain and heartache. I have other homeschool friends who have experienced similar things with a teenager or grown child. This has sometimes led to the question, "Why did I bother? What difference did it make for me to sacrifice so much, to invest so much time and thought and effort, to care so much? If homeschooling my child, keeping him away from all the negative influences in the schools, diligently teaching him about character and values as well as academics, didn't insure that he wouldn't make terrible choices later on - then what was the purpose?!"

 My response is that there are no guarantees in life. Being a homeschooler does not necessarily spare us or our children from pain, suffering, or conflict, any more than being a Christian does. So we cannot approach homeschooling with the idea that we are guaranteeing that our children won't rebel or succumb to temptation or be led astray. But we labor to build a strong foundation of grounded faith and loving family relationships to anchor our kids lives, and I don't believe those anchors let go completely, even when the ship seems to be drifting far off course! God has work to do in all of our hearts, parents and children both, and I think sometimes He gives parents situations in which to practice what we preach - forgiveness, humility, grace, courage, and trust would be a few. We are forced to run to Jesus and relinquish our dreams and desires for our children to Him, acknowledging that we do not have the power to save - only He does.

I have not faced the kind of heartache that some of my friends have with their children, but I do know what it is like to watch my children wrestle with worldly desires, struggle with their faith, and test the waters in areas I would rather they avoid completely. It is so hard as a parent of grown and nearly grown children to let them find their own way, yet still offer gentle guidance ( but not nagging! ) as an older and wiser sister-in-Christ!

What difference does it make?

A spiritual battle rages with growing fury for the hearts and minds of this next generation, and we Christians must be on our knees in prayer and also actively discipling our children (learning about and living like Christ together! ) EVERY DAY! We do this out of LOVE for our children and also obedience to the Savior who loves us! We are warriors in a cosmic battle, and even if our children make choices that we think are wrong, they will know that they have a mother who loves them and is fighting for their soul. We are planting seeds, others may water and cultivate them, but God alone will bring in the harvest in his own time. Don't lose heart.

Galatians 6:7-9 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.


MIA, But Coming Back

I am sorry that I have been MIA here. My son got married last weekend, and I will post some pictures and tell you about that in the next couple of days.
I am gearing up to reinvest some time here, because I really do have a lot to share. I want to devote more time here to talking about homeschooling, particularly homeschooling in high school and homeschool support groups. But I'll also be touching on life in general, which for me includes my Christian walk, parenting grown children, rediscovering my spouse (cuz the kids are mostly grown and guess what! he's still here!), investing in the lives of young people, cultivating friendships, baking cupcakes, and lots of other stuff. So, stay tuned. I'll be back very soon.

Still crazy after all these years. <3 p="">

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Ballroom Dance Lessons, Marriage Therapy, Same thing

Happy Wives Club

Mark and I just finished the Ballroom Dance lessons that I signed us up for without really asking. Our 14 year old son took them with us. The class was taught by a friends of ours and was made up of homeschooled teens and a few married couples. I love to dance and have fond memories of dancing to big band records with my dad in our living room when I was young.   Mark, not so much. But still, since our middle son is getting married this summer, he was a good sport and figured it might be good to have a couple of smooth moves to show off on the wedding dance floor.

 In seven 2-hour lessons, we learned the foxtrot, waltz, cha cha, East Coast swing, and Virginia Reel, as well as dance floor management and etiquette.  We also learned a few other things.

I will follow, but only if I think he is "doing it right".  Otherwise I will boss and complain.

I won't follow if he isn't leading strongly enough.   What am I, a mind reader?

It is important for the man to keep a strong frame, and for the lady to offer resistance so he can direct her.  Well, finally something I'm good at!

Our friends who were helping teach the class laughed at with us, sharing that they had experienced similar challenges as beginning dancers, and suggesting that ballroom dance class was good marriage therapy. 

Theme song:  Where You Lead, I Will Follow  (and I love Carole King)


Monday, April 15, 2013

Series: Why You Should Care About Common Core Standards, part III

I promise I'll post about other topics soon, but I'm just finding more and more info about the Common Core Standards, as well as CScope(TX) and other info about the radicalization of public education. I have to share. This is an informative video of an interview with Will Estrada of Home School Legal Defense Association about Common Core and what it will mean to all of us, whether our kids are in public school, private school, or homeschool.'


Series: Why You Should Care About Common Core Standards; part II

Tina Hollenbeck is a homeschool mom, speaker, writer, and advocate.  She is also a vocal opponent of Common Core Standards, and has written a really good blog post outlining her objections.  I agree with her 100%.   Common Core Standards are NOT state-led initiatives, no matter what spin it is given. There is big money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in developing and pushing these standards, and big muscle coming from the federal government tying acceptance of these standards to receipt of billions of dollars of federal grant money.  Even if you support the idea of standardized education, which I DO NOT, the way this has been developed and implemented is downright devious and I even believe, sinister.

"Common Core: What's the Big Deal?


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Series: Why You Should Care About Common Core Standards

You have probably heard of Common Core Standards, which are now being implemented in public schools all across this nation.  You might not have.  They kind of snuck up on us, unless you were paying attention to national education policy, and a lot of us are kind of busy with other stuff.  But the spotlight has recently been directed on these new federal curriculum mandates by the likes of Glenn BeckMichelle Malkin, Shane Vander Hart, and Diane Ravitch.   I am dumbfounded. I am (almost) speechless. I am angry.  If you are a believer in liberty, individualism, and the unique abilities and needs of children, then you will hate them too. I will start posting some of the information I discover here, but I encourage you to do some reading up on this.  Doesn't matter if you have kids in public school, private school or home school; kids are all grown; don't have kids. This is huge, invasive, and will effect EVERYTHING about the country we live in and its future.

Why I oppose Common Core standards: Ravitch

common-core21Education historian Diane Ravitch, the leading voice in the movement opposing corporate-based school reform, has for several years said she has no definitive opinion on the Common Core State Standards. Now she has come out against  them, in this post, which appeared today on her blog.
This is the third Common Core post I am publishing today.
By Diane Ravitch
I have thought long and hard about the Common Core State Standards.
I have decided that I cannot support them. In this post, I will explain why.
I have long advocated for voluntary national standards, believing that it would be helpful to states and districts to have general guidelines about what students should know and be able to do as they progress through school. Such standards, I believe, should be voluntary, not imposed by the federal government; before implemented widely, they should be thoroughly tested to see how they work in real classrooms; and they should be free of any mandates that tell teachers how to teach because there are many ways to be a good teacher, not just one.
I envision standards not as a demand for compliance by teachers, but as an aspiration defining what states and districts are expected to do. They should serve as a promise that schools will provide all students the opportunity and resources to learn reading and mathematics, the sciences, the arts, history, literature, civics, geography, and physical education, taught by well-qualified teachers, in schools led by experienced and competent educators.
​For the past two years, I have steadfastly insisted that I was neither for nor against the Common Core standards. I was agnostic. I wanted to see how they worked in practice. I wanted to know, based on evidence, whether or not they improve education and whether they reduce or increase the achievement gaps among different racial and ethnic groups.
After much deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that I can’t wait five or ten years to find out whether test scores go up or down, whether or not schools improve, and whether the kids now far behind are worse off than they are today.
I have come to the conclusion that the Common Core standards effort is fundamentally flawed by the process with which they have been foisted upon the nation.
The Common Core standards have been adopted in 46 states and the District of Columbia without any field test. They are being imposed on the children of this nation despite the fact that no one has any idea how they will affect students, teachers, or schools. We are a nation of guinea pigs, almost all trying an unknown new program at the same time.
Maybe the standards will be great. Maybe they will be a disaster. Maybe they will improve achievement. Maybe they will widen the achievement gaps between haves and have-nots. Maybe they will cause the children who now struggle to give up altogether. Would the Federal Drug Administration approve the use of a drug with no trials, no concern for possible harm or unintended consequences?
President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan often say that the Common Core standards were developed by the states and voluntarily adopted by them. This is not true. They were developed by an organization called Achieve and the National Governors Association, both of which were generously funded by the Gates Foundation. There was minimal public engagement in the development of the Common Core.
Their creation was neither grassroots nor did it emanate from the states. ​In fact, it was well understood by states that they would not be eligible for Race to the Top funding ($4.35 billion) unless they adopted the Common Core standards. Federal law prohibits the U.S. Department of Education from prescribing any curriculum, but in this case the Department figured out a clever way to evade the letter of the law. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia signed on, not because the Common Core standards were better than their own, but because they wanted a share of the federal cash. In some cases, the Common Core standards really were better than the state standards, but in Massachusetts, for example, the state standards were superior and well tested but were ditched anyway and replaced with the Common Core.
The former Texas state commissioner of education, Robert Scott, has stated for the record that he was urged to adopt the Common Core standards before they were written.
The flap over fiction vs. informational text further undermined my confidence in the standards. There is no reason for national standards to tell teachers what percentage of their time should be devoted to literature or information. Both can develop the ability to think critically. The claim that the writers of the standards picked their arbitrary ratios because NAEP has similar ratios makes no sense. NAEP gives specifications to test-developers, not to classroom teachers.
I must say too that it was offensive when Joel Klein and Condoleeza Rice issued a report declaring that our nation’s public schools were so terrible that they were a “very grave threat to our national security.” Their antidote to this allegedly desperate situation: the untried Common Core standards plus charters and vouchers.
Another reason I question the Common Core standards is that I am worried that they will cause a precipitous decline in test scores, based on arbitrary cut scores, and this will have a disparate impact on students who are English language learners, students with disabilities, and students who are poor and low-performing. A principal in the Mid-West told me that his school piloted the Common Core assessments and the failure rate rocketed upwards, especially among the students with the highest needs. He said the exams looked like AP exams and were beyond the reach of many students.
When Kentucky piloted the Common Core, proficiency rates dropped by 30 percent. The Chancellor of the New York Board of Regents has already warned that the state should expect a sharp drop in test scores. What is the purpose of raising the bar so high that many more students fail?
Rick Hess opined that reformers were confident that the Common Core would cause so much dissatisfaction among suburban parents that they would flee their public schools and embrace the reformers’ ideas (charters and vouchers). Rick was appropriately doubtful that suburban parents could be frightened so easily.
Jeb Bush, at a conference of business leaders, confidently predicted that the high failure rates sure to be caused by Common Core would bring about “a rude awakening.” Why so much glee at the prospect of higher failure rates?. I recently asked a friend who is a strong supporter of the standards why he was so confident that the standards would succeed, absent any real-world validation. His answer: “People I trust say so.” That’s not good enough for me.
Now that David Coleman, the co-lead author of the Common Core standards, has become president of the College Board, we can expect that the SAT will be aligned to the standards. No one will escape their reach, whether they attend public or private school.
Is there not something unseemly about placing the fate and the future of American education in the hands of one man?
I hope for the sake of the nation that the Common Core standards are great and wonderful. I wish they were voluntary, not mandatory. I wish we knew more about how they will affect our most vulnerable students. But since I do not know the answer to any of the questions that trouble me, I cannot support the Common Core standards.
I will continue to watch and listen. While I cannot support the Common Core standards, I will remain open to new evidence. If the standards help kids, I will say so. If they hurt them, I will say so. I will listen to their advocates and to their critics. I will encourage my allies to think critically about the standards, to pay attention to how they affect students, and to insist, at least, that they do no harm.