Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Homeschool Agendas

Maybe I should start with a statement of my overarching goals for my children:
I want my children to grow up with personal faith in God and the skills, abilities and attitudes necessary to provide for and direct their own families and to be contributing members of society.
Wow. Do I know how to accomplish this? Of course not. I do have some pretty good examples to follow, both within and without my own family. I take great comfort from the fact that in spite of inperfections in my parents and in the circumstances in which I grew up, my siblings and I have seem to have turned out pretty well. I have a lot of dreams for my children--what parent doesn't? I want them to learn to be hardworking. I want them to do well in their schooling and be able to go to college at a good school; I would be really happy if they could qualify for scholarships! I want them to choose good marriage partners and have happy families of their own...OK, most of that's in the way far future. How does that translate to homeschooling this year?
Well, Lily is just in Kindergarten. That means, to me, that any schoolwork we do should be very low-key and not stressful. My plans, consequently, are not very structured; I just don't feel that a child this age needs to be made to fit some adult's mold, even my own. She needs lots of time outdoors, lots of time for experiencing the world around her and for outdoor exploration. This is why Outdoor Time is one of the three things on my To Do list for school every day. I think it is much more critical at this stage in her life than math, reading, or most other things.
What are the other two Every Day items? Well scripture study--preferably reading together and working on a memory verse. Why? Because we come to know God by studying His words as given to us by prophets and apostles. And we need to know God if we are to live our lives with meaning. And have you ever noticed that the things you learned when you were young are never forgotten? Your first phone number (no matter how many you may have had and forgotten since)? All those TV commercials? Nursery rhymes? I remember very distinctly when I was about Lily's age my parent's teaching me William Blake's poem beginning "Little lamb, who made thee?" I remember every line of that poem to this day. So this is the time to be teaching our children the things we want them to remember. Scripture verses, songs and hymns, poems, those things that they can call on when they need to be uplifted anytime throughout their lives.
And my third every-day activity? Music practice. Why? Ummm...because that's what my mother did? In all honesty, I consider my mother to be one of the wisest women, and certainly one of the most intuitive mothers, in the world. She tells me now that music was her way of raising children--her way of giving us something really challenging, requiring consistent work and focus. She didn't produce a crop of great performers; she never wanted to. She did produce a family who know and love music, who learned about persistence, cooperation, and how to record yourself practicing then turn on the tape to make mom think you were doing it when you weren't. Oh wait, that was only me :-) In any case, doing music just feels right, kind of like doing homeschool just feels right to me. By the way, Lily has chosen to study cello this year. I finally have a use for that absolutely adorable little cello I just had to buy two years ago...
So that is my agenda in a nutshell. Oh, I have lots of other things planned. I've written about some in an earlier post. We are (somewhat loosely) following Ambleside Online's year 1 reading schedule, working on the concept of narration...and I have a ton of math materials. I really want my children to understand and enjoy math. I'm always on the lookout for materials that help develop conceptual mathematic abilities. Over the last year or so I have picked up (all used) materials from Miquon, Singapore, Math-U-See, Right Start, and probably a couple of others. But I do math only as Lily wants to do it. She likes doing math, she especially likes workbooks. At this point I encourage her to do any problems she wants to tackle, and I do not point out mistakes. If I notice a particular mistake recurring (say, writing 7's backwards, or always coming up 1 number short when doing an addition problem by "counting on") I will take note of it as something to practice correctly with her on. Often though if she seems to understand the basic concept I just let "mistakes" be. Yesterday she was doing a worksheet where you color in shapes, i.e. "find the squares and color them". One page asked her to find rectangles. The first one she found was a cross, because, she said, it was two rectangles crossing each other. (It wasn't drawn that way, no lines across the arms). But her reasoning made perfect sense. That is exactly the kind of reasoning I don't want to kill by making her find "right" answers all the time! I'm also planning to do science--we just ordered caterpillars to raise into butterflies, and I'm always salivating over all the cool science kits out there. I've looked into NOEO science, which uses more of a "living book" approach. I also like what I have seen of the Apologia elementary books. But really I should save that for another year...
I'm editing this post to add a scripture verse:
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Matthew 6:19-21
I actually borrowed this verse from Amber over at who used it in her memoires post (I hope you don't mind Amber). I liked her reference to simplifying and focusing more on family. Sometimes it is so hard to not get caught up in, well, everything...and so we waste our time and energy and forget where real treasure is to be found!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

How to impress a 3-year-old boy

Luke is totally into trucks and tractors these days. Dump trucks, bulldozers, excavators, etc. I brought home a couple of truck/tractor books from the library and he has hardly let them out of his hands--they go everywhere with him, along with his matchbox trucks. I was reading his books to him and pointing out the different machines I have tried operating: bulldozer, excavator, forklift, semi... back during an Air Force training class I attended in Florida. He think's it's pretty cool that Mom got to drive big trucks! I'm still not as cool as Uncle James who flies helicopters, though.
On another note, I was very impressed with Lily this morning. She got out of bed this morning and got out paper and drawing materials. I noticed her drawing lots of little circles down in one corner of the page. When I came by later to call her for breakfast she had just about completed her drawing--eggs, caterpillars, pupae, and butterflies (five of them). It was really, really neat. I love it when my kids do things like that!

Bible Reading Challenge day 3

I starting the 1-year Bible reading challenge on Sunday, reading 3 chapters a day. So I finished Genesis Chapter 9 today. Since these few chapters cover hundreds of years in human history, I wonder if we are meant to see in them the large patterns of God's dealings with man. Something that interests me is that thousands of people must have lived during this time period, but we learn of only a very few--basically one line of Adam's descendants, leading to Noah. This pattern is continued in the rest of Genesis--we learn mostly about one line, one family. Obviously we need to learn about the family of Israel, through whom Jesus Christ will be born into the world. But I wonder if God is trying to teach us too that it is very often through families that His work is done here on the earth. Each of us (since Adam and Eve, anyway) is born to someone--hopefully into a family with parents who will teach us about God, and about our place here on earth. When the Lord wants to do some great work, he starts by preparing a family. So we have Adam and Eve teaching their children, Noah and his family, Abraham and his family, Joseph and Mary...and I think it applies to each of us. I was born to parents who taught me the gospel and helped me prepare to live a life in accordance with God's will and hopefully teach my own children to do the same. And so on down through the generations...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

First Principles and Ordinances

Our church has no professional clergy, and addresses during Sunday services are given by members of the congregation. I was called on to speak this week (I did know a couple of weeks in advance). My topic was one of the Articles of Faith of the church, which states:
"We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost." I guess I found a lot to say because when I went to sit down the Bishop said we would dispense with the second talk on the program and proceed with a closing song and prayer. Oops. I guess my poor husband (who was scheduled as the second speaker) will have to wait 'till another time. I have to say that's the first time I have given a talk that went overtime. Usually I struggle to find enough to say to fill my alotted 15 minutes or so!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Goin' on 7 years and still in love...

Hey, ya gotta be romantic when you're at a wedding!
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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bible Reading Challenge

Rachel over at A City On A Hill is hosting a one-year Bible Reading Challenge, and I have decided to participate. Here is the information from her site:

Here is what you have to do -
1. Read the three chapters a day - after reading them, pray for at least 15 minutes, for anyone who needs prayers and for your heart to be opened, and whatever else you need. (You can also leave a comment here, if you want me to pray for you or someone you know needs prayer. I would be happy to pray for you or anyone else that needs it. :)
2. Post about what you read on your blog when you read your Bible, giving the Scripture you read and what it meant to you.
3. Make a category for this on your blog to post your posts in.
4. Announce the Challenge on your blog, using the icon and banner I made.
5. Sign the Mr. Linky, which will be on every one of *my* Bible reading posts, with the link to *your post*. (So I can check it out!)

I'm excited to read the Bible all the way through. The first time I read straight through the Bible from beginning to end was when I as a teenager. I think I've done it once or twice since then, but it's not my usual method of study, and it's probably been close to 10 years since I read that way. So I'm excited to get started.
If anyone wants to join us you can sign up here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

About Me

I decided to participate in the new homeschool memoirs meme (see link in my sidebar). Their theme for this week is "All About You!". So here goes!
I come to homeschooling honestly--I was homeschooled myself until age 8, when I entered 3rd grade at the local elementary school in a small farming town in Utah. My mother, with a degree in Physical Education, didn't have much use for the educational and child-development theories of the day. She kept us home, made sure we were acquainted with basic reading, writing and math, made us practice violin pretty much every day, and otherwise gave us the run of a 25 acre farm. Honestly, I think I had an ideal childhood.
I started school at age 8, but bigger changes in my life were in store. The summer I turned 9 my dad left his small law practice to accept a Foreign Service job with the State Department. There were 6 of us children at the time, and we embarked with varying degrees of excitement/trepidation on the adventure of a lifetime. We spent about 9 months in Virginia while my dad was in training as a Foreign Service officer, then proceeded to overseas assignments in Guatemala, France, Bolivia, and Austria. Along the way our family grew to include 10 children, three of them born overseas. In addition to my homeschooling years, I was able to experience public and private schools in several different countries. In fact, in ten years of schooling I attended 7 different schools, in 3 different languages. After graduating from high school in Vienna, I returned to the States for college, where I attended Brigham Young University in Utah. I majored in Anthropology, minored in Microbiology, joined the Air Force ROTC, served as a missionary in Japan for 18 months, married the love of my life, graduated from college, and moved to Texas. Wow, those were busy years! A couple of highlights of my young adult years were an archeology dig I participated in at Petra, in Jordan, and a Eurailing trip with my sister and friends. I served in the Air Force for less than two years; when I was pregnant with my first child I decided she needed me more than the military did, and that has been one of the best choices I ever made. A few months after Lily was born my husband took a job in California and we have been here ever since. We added Luke to the family about 3 years ago, and Baby Esther last December. This is our first year of officially homeschooling, although in a way I have been doing it ever since Lily was born! When I was first introduced to Charlotte Mason's works, I felt like I had met an old friend--actually, I thought I was reading something my mother could have written. I think they would have liked each other very much. Anyway, I base much of my homeschooling on her philosophies. I'm really looking forward to the years ahead.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back to School

I really intended the main focus of this blog to be homeschooling, and I feel I have diverged from that long enough for awhile. So here's a post on what is happening with our homeschool.
I struggled for a long time with finding a planning method that would work for me. I'm not good at sticking to a structured schedule, although I enjoy creating them. I plan to use Ambleside Online's program as my core curriculum, and benefited from someone's suggestion to print their list of scheduled readings by week then check them off the list as we complete them. I also made a chart for the term on which to plan scriptures, poems and songs for memorization (one of each per week). Then I made up a weekly log, with the days of the week across the top and subjects down the left side, including AO readings, scripture reading, music practice, nature study, copywork, phonics, math, geography, etc. I have about 20 subject areas. I don't intend to do all of these every day, but they are all areas I would like to include in our homeschool, and this format provides me with a way to record what we do and make sure over time that we are covering the things that are important to me. One line is reserved to record time spent in outside play, to remind me to make time for that every day. I'm actually pretty happy with the way I have this set up; hopefully I will be as happy with the execution as with the planning! Aside from outside time, the only things I am committed to doing every day at this point are music practice and scripture study. Right now music practice is just having Lily play her review songs on violin, as she is not taking lessons at the moment. For scripture study we review our memory verse for the week and I read aloud. Right now we are reading in the New Testament; I usually read a section from a children's story version, then read the same section in the KJV Bible. Our memory verse right now isn't technically scripture, but it is something I feel is important and relevant right now. We are memorizing "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1995 (you can read it here). As you can probably guess by my recent posts, I am concerned about the social trends we are facing and their effect on families. The family proclamation is a good reaffirmation of what we believe about family responsibilities and relationships. Memorizing this is something of a long-term undertaking. Usually I just pick scripture verses that are meaningful to me and would be understandable to the children.

Marriage II

I'm not interested in getting into a long political argument, but I would like to answer the following assertion left in a comment to my last post:
"Prop 8 is all about denying the equal right to marry to gay Americans. It has nothing to do with straight Americans."
We need to remember here that California law already recognizes civil unions between partners, regardless of sex, and extends to those unions all the rights and obligations of marriage. Proposition 8 does not change that. Those who favor same-sex marriage are not trying to gain legal equality--they already have legal equality in the eyes of the State. They are trying to change the very definition of marriage in our society.
With regards to the argument that the government should not be in the business of defining marriage, I agree wholheartedly. That is what Proposition 8 is all about. This past may, the Government of California, represented by the judicial branch, took it upon itself to change the definition of marriage for the people of California. Proposition 8 is the people's response, in the form of a constitutional amendment, preserving for ourselve the traditional definition of marriage. The constitution, remember, is not an instrument of the government; it is an instrument of the people, through which our government is organized and restrained. Government is necessary, but it is to be the servant of the people.
Think about it. Before all of the political debate in the past few years, if you went up to any person on the street and asked them to define the word marriage, what answer do you think you would have received? Wouldn't it have been something along the lines of "A union between a man and a woman that establishes a new family unit." Isn't that still the way most of us think of marriage? Is it really reasonable to think that a small minority who want the term marriage to mean something different should be able to change that definition for everyone?
But why does it matter? Look around you. American marriages are suffering, American families are suffering, from a trend that, for several decades, has weakened marriage. Quick and easy divorce, increasing cohabitation, a rate of births to unwed mothers approaching 40% (and much higher than that in some segments of society), increasing numbers of children growing up fatherless--don't these impact our society? We should be doing everything we can to encourage strong marriages among those who are bringing into the world and rearing our next generation of children. The traditional concept of marriage, as the union between a man and a woman who will be father and mother working jointly for the good of the family, needs to be maintained and strengthened. We cannot dilute it by widening the definition of marriage to include any and all relationships consenting adults might feel fit to enter into.
OK, stepping down off my soap box and no offense intended to anyone with differing opinions...

Saturday, August 16, 2008


My little sister got married last week. That's the happy newlyweds in the picture--ready to start their new life. But this post isn't really about their wedding.
I spent two hours this morning "walking the precinct" as a volunteer for, a coalition that supports California's Proposition 8. The proposition is very straightforward; it would put the following phrase in the California Constitution: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California."
The fact that such a proposition is necessary sheds a revealing light on our society. It shows a great deal of confusion about what marriage is. Here is a current definition from Wikipedia (as good a source as any) "Marriage is an institution in which interpersonal relationships (usually intimate and sexual) are acknowledged by the state or by religious authority." What is interesting to me is how very far this definition is from my concept of what marriage is! Marriage is an acknowledgement of a relationship? I can't help thinking that here lies an expression of the dangerous path we are treading.
Marriage is the most fundamental institution of any society. As part of my anthropology degree I spent many hours learning about the different ways societies organize themselves. And in every society, marriages were at the core of social organization. This is because marriage is NOT an acknowledgement of a relationship between individuals. Marriage is the bond that organizes families, and it is families that build societies. This is why we have rules governing marriage--who may mary whom, what the obligations of the various parties involved are, under what circumstances and with what consequences the marriage bond may be dissolved. The entire future of a society depends upon its families.
There are so many thoughts in my heart, and I am not sure how to put them into words. The words of Malachi, fourth chapter and sixth verse, have been on my mind all day: "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." I am concerned to look out a society that is choosing to ignore, in so many ways, both the wisdom of our fathers and the desperate needs of our children. We need to build up, support, and encourage the families of our nation--the mothers and fathers who are bringing into the world a new generation. We cannot do this if we turn the fundamental institution of marriage into nothing more than an acknowledgment of a relationship between adults. That definition is the premise upon which many base their support for a broader definition of marriage--after all, if a relationship exists between two men, two women, or any number or combination of people, to acknowledge it is only to acknowledge the truth! But to call such a thing by the name of "marriage" is to make the name itself meaningless, for these relationships are not and can not be the foundation of any society that is to last beyond a single generation.
We need to see marriage for what it is, should be and can be--the joining of two lives, two families, two futures, into a new family unit, a place where children can be born, reared, and prepared to move forward and begin the cycle again. A place where a man and a woman bring their unique and complementary strengths and ability, becoming one in the way God intended when he created the first man and the first woman and told them to "be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth" (Genesis 1:28). Let us remember that marriage is about bearing fruit--the fruit of new lives, the fruit of a stable and orderly society--not about acknowledging what someone wants acknowledged!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Traveling with children

We've spent large portions of the past two days in the car, on our way to a family reunion/my sister's wedding. I remember when we were kids driving cross country from Utah to Washington D.C. and back again, among other trips, in a big van with a bed made up in back. We would climb around, sleep, play...I don't recall wearing a seat belt very often. Now my kids have to be buckled up in car seats or booster seats all the time. Lily and Luke have actually been remarkably patient; we went to the library on Wednesday and checked out a number of children's book-and-tape sets, and they have been listening to those. Esther has been doing a lot of crying. I don't know what to do with a 7-month old who is just tired of being stuck in a car seat--and of course is too little to understand why we leave her there! It took us 12 hours yesterday to make a trip that could have been done in 6--if we didn't have to keep stopping. On the plus side, one of our stops was at Primm Nevada, which has a lot of factory outlet stores. I'd never actually shopped there before, but the kids needed a chance to stretch there legs so we went in to check things out. I got two nice skirts for $10 each, including one that I can wear for this wedding. My sister's colors are chocolate, lime and linen, and I needed something that wouldn't clash! Now I just need to find a top to go with it.
We have a couple more hours of driving to do today--we're taking a break right now at my grandparent's place. And we have to do this whole trip in reverse in 10 days. So if anyone has any tips let me know!