Saturday, February 28, 2009

I am a Mother

Growing up, I had one clear plan for my life: I planned to get married and raise a family. I wanted to be a mother. Incidentally, my secondary wish was to be a teacher. Neat how homeschooling blends the two together!
I cannot remember that I ever dreamed of being a maid, a cook, a secretary, a clerk, a tax preparer, or a decorator. Obviously, my family responsibilities include parts of each of those roles. I admit to not being very good at most of them...or should I say I have many opportunities for improvement!
I have always been surprised when people say "oh, I can't wait to put my child in preschool/kindergarten" or "I can't wait for summer vacation to be over so I can have the house to myself again". OK, I do occasionally like to have the house to myself, but honestly, if I turn a large chunk of my children's lives over to the schools, what am I left with? Oh yeah, the cooking and the cleaning and the bills...and not enough of the teaching and learning and rejoicing together part that I always looked forward to motherhood for.
I am NOT a cook. I am NOT a maid. I am NOT a clerk.
I am a mother.
Come meet me at the sandbox.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mermaid Princess

Lily is a mermaid today. Last night she took one of Daddy's socks, pulled it up over both her feet, and declaired that she was a mermaid and this was her tail. She is still wearing the sock this morning, and says she is still a mermaid. She gets around the house by hopping.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Online Curriculum Plans inspired by Charlotte Mason

Over the past year or so I have discovered many resources for those who want to use Charlotte Mason's educational ideas in their homeschool.

The ABC's of Charlotte Mason

Boooklists: These links offer lists of "twaddle-free" literature for children,,PTID61309%7CCHID605214%7CCIID,00.html

Following are several web sites with Charlotte Mason inspired curriculum plans. Most of these offer at a minimum a book list of suggested materials for each year. Some (such as Ambleside Online) offer on their web site or through yahoo groups complete semester by semester schedules and other support. Many of the books are available through libraries or even online. I'm not an expert on any of these, I just thought I would share the resources I have found. We have been loosely following Ambleside Online's year 1 plan this year, and I really like the books. I discovered Milestones Academy more recently and am excited to see specifically LDS materials incorporated. Similarly, Mater Amabilis incorporates material specifically for Catholics. I have tried to include links to grade 1 and grade 8 book lists for the different curriculums, for ease of comparison.

An Old Fashioned Education --focuses on public domain texts, mostly available online for free
Link to 1st grade plan
Link to 8th grade plan

Charlotte's Daughters --this site lists resources from an actual PNEU curriculum.
Link to 1st grade plan
Link to 8th grade plan

Mater Amabilis
Mater Amabilis lays out a Charlotte Mason inspired curriculum for Catholics
Program overview
Link to 1st grade plan
Link to 8th grade plan

Milestones Academy
"Milestones Academy is a free curriculum resource intended for LDS Christian homeschooling families or anyone else desiring to further a child's education."
There is a Yahoo group available for Milestones Academy participants
Year 1
Year 8

Simply Charlotte Mason
Curriculum Guide
History Modules
"The History/Geography/Bible Modules are set up so the subjects will complement each other within one Module and all children can study the same topics at their own levels... If you use the Modules in order, History and Bible will be covered chronologically and Geography will be related to your studies. If you study one Module per year, students who begin at Grade 1 will go through the cycle twice—once as an introduction and once more in-depth."
Science curriculum guide

Friday, February 20, 2009

Emulating Mary

Luke chapter 10:38-42
Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.
But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
I have been struggling for a long time with prioritizing my activities. As I read the story of Mary sitting at the Savior's feet, I feel that I need to make Mary's choice. It seems that from the time I wake up in the morning until I go to bed at night (and, yes, all night long as well...) I am juggling the various needs of my children and family. Time for personal scripture study, prayer, evaluation and planning just doesn't seem to exist. But I am changing that.
My kids go to bed late (when we do). That usually leaves me with some time in the morning before they wake up (or at least, after they wake up, come in and snuggle, and go back to sleep...) I have been making a special effort this past week to use that time for personal prayer and scripture study. I have also made a renewed effort to consisitently hold morning devotionals with the children, reading scriptures and singing together.
I can't say my life has been revolutionized, but I know I'm on the right track.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Homeschool Resource Review: Classical Conversations

A couple of weeks ago I took the kids with me to visit the local Classical Conversations group. Lily spent the morning attending their 4 and 5 year old class, and I spent the morning observing. For those who are not familiar with the program, Classical Conversations sponsors weekly group classes designed to supplement a classical christian education. The classical model they follow is similar to that outlined in The Well-Trained Mind, in which the elementary years (grammar stage) are spent learning the underlying facts and rules of various subjects. These are covered in CC's Foundations program, which is designed for children in K-6. Foundations is followed by Essentials (middle grades) and Challenge (high school) programs. I will limit my review to the Foundations program as it is the only I observed.
Classical Conversations uses a 3-year rotation in the Foundations program. I can't quite remember the cut off dates, but I believe year 1 covers creation through the middle ages, year two is probably Renaissance through modern, year 3 focuses specifically on American history. Science also follows a 3-year rotation, while math facts are repeated every year. Classical Conversations is essentially a memorization program, with new "memorization sentences" being introduced every week.
The week we visited, the children were introduced to the following history sentence (note: this is as I remember it, of course my memory may not be completely accurate...): From 1820 to 1930 more than 37 million immigrants came to America seeking freedom and to increase their personal wealth. The sentence was introduced with pictures and a recorded song. A new math sentence was also introduced: The area of a circle is equal to pi times the radius squared. In science, the elements of the periodic table were being taught, along with their atomic weights and numbers--we were introduced to Hydrogen, Helium, Lithium, and Beryllium.
So what did the kids get out of all this? I'm really not sure. In fact, I have serious doubts about the usefullness of teaching these particular facts to 4 and 5 year olds. Lily, for example, may have remembered the song for the history fact, but I'm sure she doesn't know what 1820 means, or 1930, or immigrant, or 37 million... As for the area of a circle, what is area? The tutor held up a pi plate with the radius labled and the numbers 3.14. The kids might memorize the formula, but without any concept of what it means. Ditto for the elements of the periodic table--at least in the class we attended there was no real explanation of what an element is, or the particular properties of each.
The class also included a scientific exploration time, which seemed somewhat more age appropriate--the tutor poured sprite from a can into a glass, then weighted a strip of paper towel with a paper clip and lowered it into the glass. The children observed the bubbles. They tried using an unweighted strip of paper towel, and observed that it did not sink. I'm not sure there was any specific scientific concept taught, but the kids enjoyed making observations. After this came art time in a different room. The children learned a little about a particular artist (sorry, I can't remember who) and painted their own picture in the same style. Of course they enjoyed painting.
Back in the classroom, the tutor reviewed history timeline cards (these are nice cards produced by Veritas Press) with the children. The timeline cards are separate from the history rotation program--I was told that the entire timeline is taught every year. They also practiced a few words of a scripture in Latin--I don't remember the specific verse, but I believe it was from the book of John. The tutor said they have been working on this scripture all year, first learning it in English. The children then worked on an outline map of the united states, outlining states and bodies of water.
So, would I sign a child up for this program? Based on what I have seen, probably not, at least in the early elementary years. For a supplemental program, it is relatively expensive--yearly tuition and fees come in a little over $400 per child, and required materials adds another $160 or so (the program runs 24 weeks). Of course, the monetary commitment probably makes for a high level of participatory commitment; tuition is non-refundable, so families who sign up for the program are likely to continue throughout the year. The mothers I talked to seemed enthusiastic about the program and their kid's participation, and the kids seemed to be having fun. If you are following a neo-classical education model, and are looking for a coop type experience for social reinforcement, Classical Conversations might fit the bill. Do remember, though, that it is not meant to be a complete curriculum, or even a curriculum core, but functions mainly (at the Foundations level) as a memorization program. Is it effective as such? Probably. The tutors seem to use a variety of methods (visual representations, gestures, songs...) to make the material presented memorable and fun. I was however disappointed in the lack of meaningful experience attached to the memorization facts. I personally question how effective these memorized facts will be as "hooks" on which the children can hang future knowledge, if they are simply isolated facts without real meaning. I think the children will learn more about, say, immigration in the 19th century, by reading a stories or biographies about immigrants. They can learn about geometry by building with blocks. We can explore the world with them, read to them, do science experiments together...and they will all the time be creating their own personal mental "hooks" from which they can build.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


We are, once again, recovering from a virus. It's funny, I somehow always figured that we get colds and flus and such in winter becuase it's so cold--and that makes us more susceptible. But it really hasn't been cold here this winter. So why've we all been sick so much?
On another note, I've been reading "The China Study" , by T. Colin Campbell. This book was recommended by our pediatrician and does a good job of advocating for a whole-foods plant-based diet--basically, the less animal products the better, especially dairy. So here's my take on it: we don't have to become vegan, but really should focus on eating mostly fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Hmm, where have I heard that before?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

February garden

New shoots sprouting...
cherry tomatoes ripening...
peas please...
and potatos! I love gardening in California.
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Monday, February 2, 2009

Mormon Monday: Are Sunday's Fast or Slow?

Mormon Monday is my time to discuss things that are important or unique to my faith as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Yesterday, like the first Sunday of every month, was Fast Sunday in my church. We could sometimes wish this meant the day goes by faster than usual! In fact, it often seems to go slower. A Fast Sunday is a day of fasting and prayer. Those members who do not have a medical counterindication to fasting are generally expected to fast for 2 meals, or aproximately 24 hours. In fasting we exercise self-control over physical appetites by going without food or water, and we focus on our need to be spiritually in tune with the Lord. Often a fast is accompanied by particularly fervent prayers, individually and as families or congregations, for specific needs. In addition, the money that would have been spent on food is donated as a "fast offering" to the church, specifically earmarked to administer to the needs of those who cannot afford food, clothing, shelter or other needs.
Church sacrament meetings on Fast Sunday also differ from the normal pattern which includes prepared talks by church leaders or members of the congregation. Instead of a prepared sermon or talk on a specific topic, members of the congregation are invited to stand as they feel moved by the spirit to share their testimonies of the gospel. When those present bear pure testimony of the truths of the gospel and the blessings it has brought into their lives, these meetings can be a time of spiritual feasting.
In recent years, I have not often participated in a full 24 hour fast as I have always been pregnant or nursing or a baby (or both!) and fasting is generally counterindicated under such circumstances. I do however appreciate the greater spiritual depth of fast sundays and look forward to the time when I can again participate fully.