O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. Psalms 43:3

And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith. D&C 88:118

The kids

The kids

Sunday, April 29, 2012

For the Record...

Over the years the kids have learned a lot... but I am not the best at keeping formal records. I get to the end of the year and look back. I  know that they have accomplished a lot, since I can look at their current place and see what they learned since the last year. Unfortunately,  I can't remember what exactly we did and when. This is part of why I am resolved to blog more... to help me keep records of the stuff we do. But in addition to that, I have been working on more record keeping at home. With Butterfly and Pumpkin Pie, I have not settled on a good way of keeping formal records yet. I do keep their completed work in a box... but nothing written down from week to week.

I tried downloading a planner and filling it in with my plans and then checking off what was done. That has always lasted for the first 6 weeks or so...

For the past 2 months I have been working with Tiger on record keeping. As he gets older, it is more and more important that we keep a record of what he has read and what he learns. It also helps me see where we need to focus more time. Also, the way I have developed to keep his records gives him some accountability too.

Together we sat down and discussed what he thought he needed to cover. I  told him a minimum amount of time he would need to spend time every day. How he divides that time is up to him. He created target goals of how much of each thing he should do each day. Once he had created target goals, we totaled them up and they were more than my minimum. We also talked about how sometimes he spends 2-3 times longer than "allocated" on a given day, not to worry about it. It is ok to only hit each thing 2-3 times per week so he can really get involved in his studies.

At the bottom of the page, I write down various books read, special projects, and more details to justify what was written above. We do it together. We are still missing some of what he is doing, because the more freedom I have given him to learn from among the materials I provide, the longer he spends in learning time each day. It is not uncommon for him to spend 6-8 hours in uninterrupted learning time. When he gets less than 3-4 hours of uninterrupted time, he gets quite testy and insists he needs more time to study. Considering he is a 10 year old boy and 6 months ago he was whining about "doing school," I am amazed.

As I look over the last couple weeks, I notice he hasn't done any spelling. While I have not been too worried since he spells near perfectly most of the time, I decided to get out his spelling book and quiz him. I picked every hard word I could find and sure enough, he knew all the words I asked him! I guess spelling is not necessary right now. Oh well. I also notice as I look at his list that writing is not on it. We beta tested a writing program which was fabulous, but he really struggles with WANTING to write. He got a bit burnt out so we didn't put it on the list. He is now asking me to help him with writing so we are hand writing that in the blank lines below the block of subjects that are pre-printed.

Some weeks are one subject heavy and some weeks are more balanced. The week Tiger was in a math competition, he spent 3+ hours a day on math. He will also go over the last couple of weeks of records and take note of what he has not been covering. He will then make sure to hit those things on a given day. It is really wonderful to see him taking ownership of his education.

What do you use for record keeping?
Other members of the TOS Crew also answered this question. You can read about their ideas here.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Logic- check, Math- check, Family relations-check

Tiger has done chess camps and a couple of tournaments over the years but hasn't played in a long time. The other day during learning time, he got out a chess book and started studying again various openings, tactics, and attacks. He and the girls have been playing many games of chess. Sometimes they play a full game and sometimes they play pawn games to learn better ways to move the pieces.


Friday, April 20, 2012

TOS Review Critical Thinking Company: Inference Jones

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I receieved a PDF version of Inference Jones Beginning from The Critical Thinking Company. Inference Jones has 48 with 18 lessons and answer key, and costs $11.99. It is classified as grades 3-4 but can be used for remediation with 5-12+. While Butterfly is considered 2nd grade, she is more in the 3-4th+ grade range for reading so she was the test subject.

Inference Jones helps teach the skill of inference through short stories and questions. From the website: 
Inference Jones provides short, fun, and easy-to-use activities that improve critical reading and higher order thinking by developing the student’s ability to draw inferences from written text. Research shows inferential reasoning is a prerequisite component to superior reading comprehension. The National Foundation for Educational Research concluded that "the ability to draw inferences predetermines reading skills: that is, poor inferential reasoning causes poor comprehension and not vice versa."

I have used many Critical Thinking Company products over the years of homeschooling and have generally been thrilled. Initially I thought this would be a good one too. The stories are short and each lesson only takes a few minutes, but it was not a good fit for my family. Initially Butterfly was excited to try the new materials for her. After I explained the activity she gave it a try. The first exercise she did in a few minutes. We discussed her answers and she seemed happy. The next day I brought it out again and she told me she "hated Inference Jones." and it was "boring." When I mention it, she immediately gets a deep furrow in her brown and frowns at me. She does not want to do it. I have not had her outright reject curriculum before. If she isn't thrilled with something, she usually tries to whine her way out of it but will reluctantly do it. After some coaxing, I was able to get her to tell me why she was not liking it. She said she didn't like the stories. The first two stories in the book illustrated children who were not exhibiting good attributes. The first is late and the second forgot his responsibilities. After I figured out why she didn't like it, I suggested we try again. This time, I had her sit on my lap and read the story to me. Then we discussed the story and questions without filling in the pages. The story was better than the first two and she was happier. Relief. I will still pull out Inference Jones because I think it is a valuable skill but I don't forsee her grabbing it off the shelf to do with gusto.

As much as I love Critical Thinking Company, this one was ho hum for us. Be sure to read other experiences though so you can make the best choice for your family. Several others on the TOS Crew also reviewed it. You can read about their experiences here



Photobucket Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are mine.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

TOS Review: Amazing Science

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 Amazing Science from Science and Math.com  is a 2-disk DVD set. It has 23 science experiments which can be done at home. Most are kitchen-friendly but a few require some less kitchen friendly materials.  Each experiment is presented by Jason Gibson, a Rocket Scientist for NASA with degrees in physics and and engineering.

From the website: 
Learn fundamental principles of science through Amazing Science Experiments! You'll learn about electricity, magnetism, heat, temperature, pressure, surface tension, buoyancy, and much more.
For every demonstration, a complete materials list is given, and each experiment features multiple camera views so you can see exactly what happens. Most importantly, every concept is explained in a step-by-step fashion. You'll not only be amazed - you'll understand the science behind every experiment!

Pluses:
  • All of my kids LOVED these videos and experiments.
  • The materials are generally easy to acquire and the experiments are easy to do. 
  • After demonstrating each experiment, Jason explains why the experiment works and what scientific principles are at work.

Minuses:
  • The materials list is briefly given at the beginning of the segment on the video. I think it would be nice if there were a pdf download or pdf file on the disk with a materials list and directions printed out in addition to the video.

Overall we loved these videos. My children were inspired to try out many of the experiments. One day we had 2.5 minutes (literally) before we had to walk out the door. My kids had just finished a video segment that required 2 cups, a sink, a straw, and some water. They were dying to try their experiment before we left the house. Because the materials were so easy to find, I let them do it before we left. After they were done, they joyfully skipped out the door on time when they were done.

Here is one Tiger did after watching the video. Not only does he know how to do the experiment, but he knows and understands why it works:
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The simple experiments with normal materials makes it well worth the $19.95 cost of the 2-DVD set. It is also possible to download the videos for $17.99. For more information please check out the sample video and the website at Science And Math.com
We love Amazing Science here at the Lighthouse Academy and hope you do to!

Check out what other TOS Crew mates say about Amazing Science.
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Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are mine.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Inspiration in Many Places

As I have been led down the road towards the Leadership Education philosophy, I ponder the question Who (or what) Inspires Me? on a regular basis. That was the question that was posed for the Blog Cruise this week...

According to Webster's 1828 Dictionary, inspiration  means:
The infusion of ideas into the mind by the Holy Spirit; the conveying into the minds of men, ideas, notices or monitions by extraordinary or supernatural influence; or the communication of the divine will to the understanding by suggestions or impressions on the mind, which leave no room to doubt the reality of their supernatural origin.
I love this definition! In my life, I have found inspiration in many places. The obvious places are in the scriptures or on my knees or singing hymns, but there are many not so obvious places and people too.


One not-so obvious place is in nature. I find that nature continually reminds me of God, the ultimate source of inspiration. I love to smell the ocean, see the new flowers, harvest berries or leaves for food or medicine, watch a stunning sunset, or gaze at the world freshly blanketed white with snow before the roads or people wake and disturb the soft billows of fluff. Each time I do these things, I turn my mind and heart to the Lord and feel gratitude for life and the beauty of the earth.

As I took the kids to the park to play on the first really nice day of Spring this year, I was thinking about this very thing. I took the following picture in a small alcove of trees on the outskirts of the park. In this alcove, my children love to play. It is a child's ultimate hideaway. The only exception is the nettles and possible brambles that lurk nearby.
As the children played I found myself marveling at the inspiration for science lessons that were just there around me. I gathered the children around and we identified some herbs and their uses. The plant pictured above is the Stinging Nettle or Urtica dioica. We harvest it in the spring and it is our traditional Easter dinner (we are vegetarian so no ham or lamb for our family). Nettles are really only available in the early spring where we live. They spring up and are ready to harvest about the time that Easter comes each year. To me, nettles,  daffodils and tulips symbolize the re-awakening of the plant. They inspire me to look forward to the beauty of the changing seasons that are coming throughout the next year. Nettles are also cleansing to the blood, just as Jesus cleanses us from sin.

I find that classic books inspire me. There are so many books that have inspired me but I will only list two recent ones. The girls and I just finished reading A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I love that book. Sarah Crewe is an inspiration to me of long suffering and enduring to the end. She also inspires me to be charitable. When she is hungry and cold and happens upon enough money to purchase 6 hot buns, fulfilling the dream she was having when she finds the coin, she gives 5 of them to a beggar girl outside the bakery. The selflessness of one so small is inspiring to me. Nathanial Bowditch in Carry on Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham inspires me to keep learning no matter what the challenges.

Karate inspires me. Every time I take my shoes off at the door of the dojo, I leave the world behind to turn inward and focus on improving myself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Karate training helps me focus on the essential and release the non-essential. In other words, when we are at the dojo, the essential is being in the moment with your training. If your mind is focused elsewhere, you might harm your partner or injure yourself. Every time I have a tough day and I leave that behind at the door, I learn and reinforce in myself that I can move past the small stuff and really focus on what matters. In my home I may have to deal with inappropriate behavior, but I don't need to hold on to it. Once it is dealt with, I can let it go because what matters most is relationships and people.

My children inspire me. They remind me that we are all children of God and that he has sent us here for a purpose. They inspire me to want to be the best mother I can be and to improve myself each day. 



Other homeschoolers inspire me. I find that as I listen to their stories and really try to understand them I find that the Lord whispers pieces to me that I can take and use to help my family in our homeschooling journey. I am so grateful that I belong to a book discussion group with other homeschooling moms with a similar philosophy and desire to serve God by educating their families in the way He directs them to. These moms all believe that as mothers we have been given a divine stewardship over our children and that because of that stewardship, we are entitled to inspiration from the Lord to know the best way to educate our children for each of our children individually within our families. They also believe so deeply in this stewardship that they respect and honor and support the other mothers doing things just a little differently and rejoice in the process.

If I had to pick one person though, I think I would have to pick my sister Katie. She inspires me and has for many many years. She is selfless, thoughtful, and dedicated to the Lord. She is cheerful, kind, and has a passion for helping others. She wants everyone to succeed and to fulfill the mission that God gave them to do. She lives every day full of life and love and has a smile that is contagious. Even when she was pregnant and coming down with the flu, was caring for me and my 1 week old new baby and her son and all of my three older kids were sick, she still had a smile on her face and tried to make the best of it. She lives 1000 miles away and I miss her!  I love being around her and soaking in her positive energy. She inspires me to want to be a better person and daughter of God.

For more sources of inspiration, take a moment and sail on our Blog Cruise. (Link goes live April 17th)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Into April and Still Burn-proof

I remember back in the days when I was in school and in college, April and May sunny days were the WORST. We would sit in class and gaze out the window at the sunny sky and the bright green grass and it was so hard to pay attention, especially if it was warm and there was no air conditioning to help cool the air in the classroom! Back then we called it Spring Fever.

Many parents and kids also seem to get the fever come spring and homeschooling moms begin to feel burnout towards the end of the school year. After homeschooling for five years, this year I think I have figured out a few things. I am headed into April with a smile on my face and new excitement every day rather than being tired. Here are a few things I have done a little differently:

Focus on structuring Time NOT Content. In other words, rather than focusing on finishing pages 98 and 99 in Math and page 110 in spelling and reading chapter 35 in history followed by 5 books... I am structuring our TIME. I say for the next ___ amount of time we will read about the colonization of Virginia. We then have the time to leisurely read through as many or as few books as we want and discuss them. If I don't finish Story of the World in 1 year, then I will just keep going. There is no deadline since everyday is an opportunity to learn.

Focus on routines including a routine of family work. I am still working on solidifying some parts, but I am getting there.By making sure that the family work gets done, then I don't feel like I am never catching up and I can keep moving forward.

If it is a sunny day, take school outside if you can! Go on a field trip to the park with some books to read out loud and have school under a tree with a picnic lunch. Living in the Pacific North-wet we don't have a ton of gorgeous days in the spring, but we do take advantage of them.

Don't over schedule. Leaving time for the family and family activities helps keep enthusiasm up. We all need down time and if we are going going going all the time, we get sick of it. A day at home is a good thing.

Eat well. I find that when we eat the most fruits and veggies is when we are the happiest and have the most fun.

Don't stagnate your own inspirations. Take a specific amount of time each day to pray, study scriptures, and other inspiring works. By continuing to do your own studies, read inspiring books, and continue to grow yourself, you can help lessen the burn-out. Each of us has a mission in life and we need to live it. As a homeschooling mother, my primary responsibility is to the teaching and raising of my family, but God has given me a work to do and I always need to be in pursuit of that work. In order to live up to my full potential, I must continue to feed my own brain, even if it is only 1 page out of an inspiring book or an audiobook while I wash the dishes.

Relish the joys and drop the subject on the frustrations. Today I had a perfect illustration of this principle. I was trying to convince Strawberry to take a trip to the potty. She has been potty-learned for about 9 months, but I still have to make sure to take her every couple hours or we will have accidents. She didn't want to take a trip to the potty and was getting into a stubborn 2.5 year old battle. Rather than getting frustrated, I began to play with her, tickling her while I carried her. She giggled so much, she forgot about the battle. I thought about how I love hearing her giggle. It sure was one of the highlights of the day! 

For more tips on ways to avoid burn-out, check out what other crew members do.
 

Monday, April 9, 2012

TOS AIMS It's About Time Review






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Butterfly really struggles with reading analog clocks and Pumpkin Pie also needs to learn to read them. I received AIMS It's About Time to review from AIMS Education Foundation and use with my girls to teach about clock reading.

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It's About Time is available as an e-book download or a 176 page guide with CD. Both options cost $21.95. The CD contains all the worksheets to copy for the students. This particular book comes with a duplication right of "200 copies of any portion of the purchased activities, provided these copies will be used for educational purposes and only at one school site." There is also an option to purchase additional duplication rights. The information is found at the back of the book.

It's About Time is a book of activities to do with children to teach about time from conceptualizing what comes first, second and third all the way through reading digital and analog clocks. It is designed for K-2 students although I think if an older child didn't know how to read a clock it could be modified to use with them as well. The layout of each activity reminded me of the lab write-ups I did in chemistry in college. All of the activities include a topic, key question to answer, learning goals, "guiding document" in the form of list of the NCTM 2000 standards the lesson will cover, what area of math is covered, what processes will be integrated (observing, comparing, classifying, etc), materials, "management" or preparations, procedures, discussion questions, advice on evaluation, and extension suggestions.Following the lesson are the images to be copied for the activity. The illustrations are well drawn, clear, inviting, and large enough for children.

This product is mostly designed for a classroom setting and many activities specify 12 or more children. While I found it very well laid out and thoughtful, I really struggled to use this guide with my children.  Maybe it was the lack of enough students for the activities I found the most inspiring,  maybe it was all the extra materials like beanbags, pocket charts, multiple colors of tape, and binder rings I don't have, and maybe it was the amount of prep work each activity seemed to require before beginning, but I really wasn't too excited about this in the end. I think if I were a leader of a co-op this would have been fabulous but I don't think I can recommend it for a homeschooling family with only a few students and little extra prep time.

See what my other crew mates thought about It's About Time as well as other AIMS products we reviewed. Photobucket


Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are mine.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

TOS Review: TruthQuest

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TruthQuest History is a literature-based history study focusing on God's hand in all things. TruthQuest offers several different epochs for both older and younger students. I received American History for Young Students I (Exploration - 1800) which is geared towards 1-5 grade. Each guide book has a short commentary followed by a  book list on each topic to give the parents a springboard to not only make history come alive but to illustrate God's ways throughout time.

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I really love the extensive book lists covering so many areas of American History. I also really like that many of the entries are annotated with either cautions about possible worldview problems or information that the author deems important and an approximate independent reading grade level. The lists include fiction, non-fiction, and a few activity suggestions as well as periodic "ThinkWrite" prompts to help children narrate or write about what they are learning in relation to America and God's plans. Occasionally a film or audio is mentioned as well. In addition to the book lists within each topic, the appendix includes possible responses to the ThinkWrite prompts, an alphabetical list of books by title, and a bibliography of works used.

Many of the suggested works tend to be older and some are public domain. Not all will be available in your library. I belong to a very large library system which won a national Library of the Year award this past year. I can usually find almost anything in the system that I want, but I did find a large percentage of the books were not available at my library. This isn't the end of the world though, because the introductory pages suggest that the list is not THE list but just A list and no one should feel obliged to use all of the books presented. Despite not being able to find all the books, the TruthQuest guide did give me a springboard to search for other books on the topic.

I love the premise of TruthQuest: Get children excited about history and teach them not only the history of man, but more importantly, the history of God's hand in all things, by using great literature and resources rather than textbooks. In order to help the parent accomplish this goal, the commentary is read to the children, or they read it  themselves, before beginning to read books on the topic. This is a great idea as it prepares the child to look for spiritual issues within the context of the events; however, the way that the commentary was written is a little too conversational for my taste. For example, in talking about the Lord bringing people to the American Continent, it says, "And since He is a good God, we can know His plans are for good! Yeah!"

I found myself distracted by the tone and editorial exclamations like "Hmmmm" and "Yeah!" I also found that sometimes the commentary was trying so hard to explain things that the sentences got unnecessarily wordy. For example, in talking about the French, Spanish, and English and where they claimed land, it says: 
The French mostly held the northern area of Canada... The Spanish held the southern areas of Florida and the lands close to Spanish Mexico. And the English hand the land in the middle... Do you see? It was like a sandwich! Three distinct layers! Do you get the picture? You might be interested, then, in this: while things were very far from perfect in England, at least England had a little more religious and political freedom than either France or Spain, and that is very, very, very important! Hmmmmm.
As a result of the way the text is written, I often decided not to read it to my children. Instead, I  read the commentary for tips of what I might want to mention during our history study time. I then presented that and dove into the books.

Overall, I really like TruthQuest. I like having a guide to help me place important events in history in order as well as a list of "living books" to teach with. I also like that I can easily modify our study to include all of my school-aged children. Using TruthQuest as my guide I was able to make the settling of Virgina and the story of Pocahontas come alive not only for my fifth grader, but also for my kindergartener and to some extent my two year old.  TruthQuest guides are reasonably priced. The print version of  American History for Young Students I (Exploration - 1800) costs $24.95 and the PDF version costs $19.95.A sample of the guide can be found here so you can see if it will be a good fit for your family.

Be sure to check out what my other the other Crew members thought about this product on the Crew Blog.
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Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are mine.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Relationships and Family work

One of the things I really like about homeschooling is the opportunity to teach my children to work together. I believe that the family is the central unit of society and true socialization begins in the family setting. Children are best socialized first within the home before they go out into the world. If my children can learn to disagree appropriately with each other, accept criticism and no answers from each other, and create positive interactions, then they can succeed in life with strangers.

I have two videos for today. The first was taken a few days ago. Strawberry noticed that everyone was doing their family work and she said to me, "Mommy, I am doing my family work too!" I looked over to see her working on folding napkins. She is 2 1/2.

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This second video was today. Tiger, Butterfly, and Pumpkin Pie were able to go to a magic show today with some friends and Strawberry stayed home for a nap. She woke up as everyone got home. Immediately, she jumped in my arms and hugged me tight. Then she went to Pumpkin Pie...


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