Monday, July 23, 2012

Whole Lotta Extreme Awesomeness!

This past weekend, we had an experience of extreme awesomeness - we got to attend the Arizona Family Home Educators Homeschool Convention in Phoenix!!

I am here to report that we had an absolutely fantastic time!!

We have been to this convention once before - three years ago - and it was just as amazing then. However, this time was a little different. When we went three years ago, we were thinking, "We want our kids to be as amazing as the homeschooled kids at our church, so we're going to homeschool." Since then, I have gone through a period of rebellion - "I don't care how awesome homeschooled kids are, I am NOT going to homeschool!" - and come back to homeschooling after a long period of finally realizing that homeschooling is God's will for our family right now, period. It's been a long journey (three years!), but I am now at a place of peace (and even joy) with God's will, and I went into this conference with an entirely different attitude. 

Additionally, this convention wasn't as overwhelming as it was last time. First-timers, be prepared - your first homeschool convention will be utterly overwhelming. There's really no way around it. And the first time, I was overwhelmed. This time it was still overwhelming. But now, having been immersed in the culture and the community for a year or so, I know some of the people, some of the cultural lingo, some of the groups and organizations, some of the curriculum vendors - so it feels a lot more familiar and home-like than it did three years ago. 

This convention was such a blessing to our family. Just like last time, we came away energized, inspired, refreshed, and renewed - and with so many ideas for next year and for the course of our family's future. Even if we weren't homeschooling, this convention is awesome as a great way to get ideas and inspiration for our marriage, our homes, and our parenting. It is awesome in so many ways. 

Here are some snippets from this weekend!

In the main ballroom - there are thousands of seats, but you notice we're sitting near the doors! (The only place for people with a baby.) Baby Moose accompanied us, and had a grand time. He obliged us, too, by being fairly compliant - I'd say I only had to miss about 30 minutes total of classes because of crankiness - otherwise he was content with being held or bounced in the back of the room.
Ready to hear the first speaker!
Listening to Heidi St. John.
Listening to Heidi St. John
 Before this conference, I had never heard of Heidi St. John, but she was awesome!! She was such an inspiration. Heidi has seven children, ages 1 to 20, and all are homeschooled. We ended up hearing her speak four or five times, and I learned so much! She talked about marriage, about mothering, about homeschooling (and inspired me to learn about notebooking) - everything was great!

Some snippets from her teachings:

Marriage must come before mothering - Because if my marriage suffers, my children are the ones who will pay.

Character comes before curriculum - Because if I pay attention to character issues (which are the foundation of a good and well-educated person), curriculum will be easier to implement and will largely take care of itself. But if my children are allowed to be selfish, disrespectful, dishonest, and unprincipled, then the best curriculum in the world won't make a bit of difference in the end.

Focus on relationships - To homeschool successfully, I must be in positive, growing relationships with my children. If a curriculum is bringing my children (and/or me) to tears on a regular basis, choose the relationship over forcing a curriculum that is not working. 

I have pages and pages of notes from her sessions (and the others I attended), but rather than bore you all with them, I will just say.... come join us next year!

You can follow Heidi St. John on Facebook at The Busy Homeschool Mom

Onto the exhibit hall, where we spent 5+ hours (lunch and every other free minute). You only see a tiny speck of it here! This is where curriculum vendors display their products, and other organizations and business also exhibit (museums, colleges, homeschool organizations, educational toys, etc.)
Entering the exhibit hall
At the used book section.
Found something!
This next part was absolutely crazy. 

Two years or so ago, a church friend gave me the name of a naturopathic doctor that she thought might be able to help our middle son. Well, to be frank, I've procrastinated on it. I only got around to emailing the center two months ago or so. It seems rather like God got tired of waiting on me, because we were literally thrown at this doctor's feet when we walked through the exhibits and he was standing right there as if waiting to talk to us! (This was the only medical practice to have a booth!) 

Guess I'd better get busy on that! (Ahem.)

The nursing mother's booth! (I only used it once, being a nurse-anywhere kind of woman, but it was definitely handy while in the exhibition hall!)

Baby Moose, having fun: 

"Who, me? You weren't thinking it was ME making all that noise during the sessions, were you?"
With Daddy, waiting for the next speaker!

At dinner after Day 1. Can we say exhausted and bleary-eyed?

Day #2 begins!
Ready for action! Woohoo!
"Was I supposed to be taking a NAP?"
 Hanging out in the hallway during lunch time....


In the exhibit hall, we got to visit the booth of an organization co-led by a friend of ours - Voices for the Voiceless, a teen group which is valiantly joining the fight for our unborn children's lives. They are doing an awesome job at a fight which is so worth fighting: 

DH displaying his shirt bought at the booth
At the Vision Forum booth, I got my free copy of "Tea with Michelle Duggar" - so excited to watch this! Michelle Duggar is one of my favorite public figures - I have read both of her books and consider her a mentor-from-afar. Love the Duggar family!!

Mine, mine, all mine!!!
While we were in the exhibit hall, I absolutely fell in love with Christian Light curriculum, and with the sweet Mennonite families who were selling it. I don't know if we'll actually use it (logistical problems), but we made some friends and saw some lovely curriculum.

Saturday's keynote was Todd Wilson, who was absolutely awesome and amazing - and, like Heidi, overwhelmingly and hilariously funny. I will never forget his turkey-in-the-RV story. And on a serious note, he was really inspiring - especially for the guys present. We heard him twice as a couple, and then DH attended two of his "for guys only" talks - and he came away completely inspired.

Below are the books we bought! I know there's some way to rotate the picture, but I'm too lazy to find out what it is. Read sideways.

We bought three of Todd Wilson's books:

"Help! I'm Married to a Homeschool Mom"
"Father Power: Inspiring Every Dad to Be His Child's Superhero"
"Dream Big, But Beware of Dream Killers"

One book from the Mennonite table (Christian Light Curriculum): "Homeschooling With Joy"

And one book from the Vision Forum: "Backyard Ballistics: Build Potato Cannons, Paper Match Rockets, Cincinnati Fire Kites, Tennis Ball Mortars, and More Dynamite Devices"

We also got to hear two more speakers - Heather Haupt, who was awesome and is a local mom (see her blog here) and Mary Schofield, also awesome. I have pages and pages of notes - techniques, books to read, blogs to follow, anything and everything!

We also got to hook up with a lot of friends - some well-known, some seen only occasionally, and some whom I had previously known only online!

All that to say... We had a great time! It's really like a marriage, parenting, homemaking, and home education seminar all at once, and we loved it.

Now, as far as actually choosing a curriculum - the answer to that mystery still eludes me. I'll save that for a later date (but hopefully not too much later of a date - we need to get started!).

Now off to come down off of a mountaintop-experience-high, get back into the real world, and recover from extreme exhaustion. 'Later, all!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Comings and Goings

 I have negative five seconds to blog, so here goes!

Summer crafts: When you ladies post so many lovely crafts on your blogs and Facebook accounts, I don't even have to looking for them! Thank you!!

Bean/pasta/grain mosaics - my one brilliant contribution being to insert said creations into page protectors before displaying. Why didn't I think of this with glitter? Or, more accurately, why did I allow glitter in the house in the first place? It is evil. But I digress:

- Christmas Gingerbread houses in July? Why yes, I think we will! Thank you, Freecycle!!

 - Balloon bowls! Only problem - our finicky son doesn't like to get his fingers messy. So guess who ended up doing the work? So much for my commitment to getting more "crafty" with the kids.


- This summer we have spent some time going to free shows at the libraries around here. So far: Arizona Puppet Theatre, Wildman Phil's Reptile Show, World Wildlife Zoo, The Roping Reynosos, and Arizona Rick's Balloon Show. Fun!

- Yesterday we went to the Arizona Science Center for the first time! It was awesome! I'm hoping to go again next month before our middle son turns three and we have to start paying for him. 

- We spent our last two weeks working a cold out of the house - it claimed five of five victims very quickly. Hopefully we can now manage to stay healthy for the next two weeks so that we can take our trip and also attend the homeschool convention!! I'm so excited about the convention! When we went two years ago, I didn't know anyone or anything, and it was completely overwhelming (though exhilerating and fun at the same time). This time I still don't know anything, but I know a few people and a lot more of the lingo (and curriculum companies, and authors, etc.) - and that should make it much more workable and beneficial. I'll take pictures!

- Various family pictures:

The eldest and the youngest - best friends.
Working on the cuteness factor.

Wee baby frog.

With his newest crib accoutrement - a pillow!

Sacked out on the floor.
- Our eldest's newest hobbies: snakes and guns, preferably both at once. Wow, interesting choices there! So our house now has some rather interesting decor:  

What, doesn't every household have these posted on the fridge?

I have lots and lots to talk about, but unfortunately, the clock is ticking and I'm already six minutes over my time allotment. So it will have to wait!! Love to everyone!!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Is It a Rugby Match? Is It an International War Zone?

Nope.... It's Family Reading Time!

On Friday I made yet another attempt at sitting all three children on the couch and reading to them. Doesn't it sound cuddly? I'm telling you - the woman who can make this miracle work is a better woman than I.

We started off with a fussy baby. Okay, I'll nurse the baby. But now the 3yo is kicking the baby in the head, and the baby is fussy anyhow and refuses to stay latched on. Every time he latches, I read for about one sentence before he pulls off and starts fussing again.

I give up trying to nurse - pull baby up, pat his back, and BLURP! - the cause of his fussiness is revealed as he spits up all over himself, me, the Boppy, and the couch.

Pause for damage control. I love baby wipes. 

Back for another try. This time we get a whole two sentences in before the 3yo throws his water bottle, hitting the baby square on the head. Now the baby is crying - we stop again to comfort the baby.

While I'm patting the baby, the fussy 3yo falls off the couch backwards - I grab his leg, but too late to save him a nice bounce on the floor. Put baby down, pick up 3yo - now both of them are crying. Lovely.

At some point, I just give up. We've gotten a whole half-page read in about forty minutes.

And that's a life in the day! Love it!

The Diaper That Changed the World

(*HG mums, please avoid reading if you are currently nauseated!*)

This morning we got to church super-early for worship team. Shortly after we arrived, I noticed that the church had a rather peculiar smell. Were the drains wrong? Was something wrong with the plumbing?

The odd smell persisted throughout the church - very odd. It was only after we'd been there for about an hour that I realized that the smell wasn't the church. The smell was us. One of the little ones, to be specific - we had a super-bad diaper issue going on.

Only upon taking said child out to the car for a diaper change did I realize that we didn't have just a diaper problem. We had an "oh, my goodness gracious, we have a diaper explosion of super-epic natural-disaster proportions on our hands!"


In six years of non-stop diapering, this was the worst I have ever seen. After gazing in horror at the havoc that one small child had wreaked upon himself, his clothing, and his stroller, DH and I did some quick damage control and then I and the kids headed home, where I spent the church hour hosing and scrubbing down the stroller, cleaning out the back of the car, changing clothing, and doing two loads of laundry.

We got back to church just in time for the closing prayer.

I'd post pictures, but for one, I don't have any - and for another, I'm opposed to pictures that are that gross. And I'm still gagging over the remembered mental images anyhow.

You know you're a parent when.... etc. etc. etc.

Happy Sabbath, all! Hope yours was more hygienic than mine!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Facebook, New & Improved!

I am happy to report that I am back on Facebook! Hello, world!

This morning I checked back in for the first time in a week and a half, and I immediately took a (virtual) hatchet to my account and started hacking right and left. When I finished, my account was a much more pleasant place to be!

I have also made other changes to my practices that I hope will promote a better relationship with the Facebook-beast. Here are some of the things that I have done and plan to do:

Settings, Subscriptions, Etc.

I have hidden or left a bunch of groups (and plan to do more) - the ones that tend to be especially controversial or snarky. I can feel the peace already.

It's not that I wish to be unaware of the various issues in which I am interested - it's just that I don't wish to be bombarded with them every time I check Facebook. My account is now much more friend-based and encouragement-based (i.e. Christian mothering/parenthood groups, etc.) and much less issue-based (though this is not 100%, of course!).

Goodbye, Facebook Tab

I am no longer keeping Facebook up on a constantly-present tab. This really has helped me to avoid the pressure to check Facebook every time I get onto the computer. Hopefully this will also encourage me to keep the number of Facebook checks down to a reasonable level (whatever that is!).

Hello, Facebook Sabbaticals!

I mean to take regular Facebook sabbaticals for rest, prayer, refocusing, and refreshment - perhaps as often as once a month (not sure yet).

I feel so much better after my Facebook sabbatical, and I plan to continue to make changes to my account to make Facebook a place of friendship and encouragement rather than one of angst, unrest, anxiety, and depression. I'm so glad I did it!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Birthday is a Dangerous Thing

Alternately titled, "Why I need to take some photography classes."

But to return to the subject at hand.

After much debating, I have decided that I am going to spend my birthday money on......

Toy Storage Boxes!!!

I'm so excited! Of course, my birthday money won't buy very many boxes, but I am so excited about getting them a bit organized and out of falling-apart cardboard boxes.

But you know...

- Before I can put toys in boxes, I have to organize the toys and books in the front room.

- To organize the toys and books in the front room, I have to redo the bookshelves.

- Before I can redo the bookshelves, I have to redo the new "homeschool bookshelves" in the back room.

- Before I redo the homeschool bookshelves, I have to relocate the bookshelves and redo the shelf heights completely!

In other words, one thing led to another, and now we're in complete chaos. The younger-kid books on the front bookshelves are almost-kinda-sorta done:

But now the toys are a disaster:

But we are in progress!

Here are my new "homeschool bookshelves," previously known as "the bookshelves that we're using to stash in-between kids' clothing" (still displayed in my stylish diaper-box storage units).

I am styling them a la Pam W., an amazing homeschool mom who has the most amazing homeschool bookshelves ever. My goal is to have rows for textbooks and curriculum, older-kid books (i.e. chapter books), non-fiction and reference books, and notebooks/records. I have the sneaking suspicion that these bookshelves too will fill up quickly, but for now I'll shut my mind to that possibility and pretend that this will be good enough for our whole homeschooling career.

My other goals are to corral toys and take some out of circulation, and in general simplify our play room (i.e. living room) so that it is not an absolute disaster every night at pick-up time. We'll see.

And all because of a few dollars of birthday money - yikes!!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Not (Quite) Dead Yet!

Yes, folks, I have now spent more than one week without Facebook! And I'm still standing, breathing, and (mostly) still alive!

Here are the things I love about not being on Facebook:

Emotional Peace

This is the biggest advantage - not being mentally involved (and upset by or in turmoil over) all of the various issues, articles, debates, etc. of which Facebook is so thoroughly filled. My mind and my heart are much more at peace, and I can focus on what I need to be doing without worrying about what others think of me, my goals, my profession, my activities, my faith, whatever. This has been a blessed relief, and I love it. I'm just not someone who can dismiss conflict lightly - it affects me deeply, in a very negative way - and Facebook just has way too much of it.

Being More Present

Mentally present, that is. I don't know about you, but I can be "with" my family physically while my brain is off in Facebook-land, saving the world or writing brilliantly-worded answers to debate questions. Not good for my sanity or my family. I'm more free to focus on my family and my home.

More Time

When I don't have the constant lure of Facebook, the computer is much easier to ignore (and to spend less time on), and I'm getting more done.

More Effective Computer Time

When I do get on the computer, I am much more effective at using my time - whether for reading articles, blogging, working on record-keeping, finding recipes, working on projects - whatever it is, I get more of it done when Facebook isn't there to distract me.

Here are the things that I miss:

Personal News & Events

Except for little updates that DH gives me, I have very little idea of what is going on in my friends' lives - and I don't like that. I miss everyone!!


I miss the interaction with other moms and other bloggers, with friends, with my church. I feel like I've pretty much lost my church, since Facebook is our main way of communicating as a body! I really miss the fellowship.


Were it not for the above two things I miss (news and fellowship), I don't think I'd be going back. I just love the emotional peace that I've gained from being away from Facebook.

But I really miss everyone.

Thus, I have some work to do: Facebook is a good servant, but a bad master. I have not yet discovered how to turn the master into a servant. I know that there are some groups and pages I am going to leave and "unlike," among other things, and that I am going to make Facebook sabbaticals a regular part of my months. But I don't yet know completely how I want to handle Facebook - so I am going to make that a regular part of my prayer time while continuing my sabbatical.

What do you all do to tame the Facebook monster, and to keep it from robbing you of your time and emotional well-being?

I miss you all! Looking forward to checking back in when I can - probably in a week or so.

Needing Help From Blogger Friends!

Okay, ladies... I need your help! Can anyone help with this issue?

I use the Blogger Reader (on my blog dashboard) to subscribe to blogs. It works beautifully, except for one thing - it won't let me unsubscribe from a blog. Subscribing is possible, but I cannot find out how to unsubscribe. Can anyone tell me how to do this?

If I click on the icon that says "manage reading list," it takes a super-long time to load the page and then says, "cannot do this, try again later." And this is not new - this happens every time.

I have tried using "View in Google Reader," which will "let" me unsubscribe, with one caveat - the blogs that I "unsubscribe" to are still there after unsubscribing!

Beyond frustrating.

What makes this even more frustrating is the fact that I have recently been spontaneously subscribed to some weird "near-porn" blog (where did this come from???) and, of course, I can't unsubscribe from it - or the other fifty or so blogs I'd like to drop from my reader.

I would love some help if anyone knows the secret!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

I Remembered It This Year!

Remembered what? Independence Day, of course! Hurray!!!

One of my many homemaking weaknesses is a tendency to remember holidays only after it's too late to do anything about them. "Oh yes, it's.. um... Christmas. And.. um... I guess I should have been doing crafts and decorating and stuff like that all month. Or something."

So this year, the fact that I remembered Independence Day and actually did something about it, however mild in comparison to you crafty Pinterest types!, is amazing and noteworthy.

Here's what we did! (I'm so impressed with myself that I have to write this down. Bear with me.)

-  I made a special dinner of brown sugar drumsticks, French fries, and fruit salad. I was planning on making Strawberry Popsicles, but alas, Sam's Club was out of strawberries - and I was lazy. So instead, I sacrificed my birthday cake, which I made and froze two months ago (and forgot on my actual birthday).

- I remembered to get out the red and blue napkins and plates that I bought five or ten years ago and have forgotten ever since. Folks, I'm on a roll here!!

- We read the Declaration of Independence (or rather, the first two and last paragraphs - more in coming years) as our new 4th of July tradition from one of my favorite blogs. 

- We watched "A Capitol Fourth," the best part of which was a great-quality NON-SCREAMING VERSION (!!!) of our oft-abused national anthem! Is that earth-shaking, or what?

- Afterwards, we went outside and watched fireworks.

It was a wonderful day! Some day I'll come down off of my I-actually-remembered-to-something! holiday high and get back to work. In the meantime, we had a great time!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Facebook: Flighty Friend or Fiendish Foe?

Lately, I have been wondering about the phenomenon of Facebook. As a matter of fact, I love Facebook, just like I love blogging and other ways of online fellowship. But at the same time, it's a mixed blessing - and it comes with a lot of negative baggage. Last night I decided that I needed to do a Facebook fast so that I could do some thinking about Facebook and determine how I want to use it in the future. So, for the first time in several years (besides camping trips and vacations), I have been off of Facebook now for almost 12 hours, and am planning about a week sabbatical. I'll let you know how it goes!

Here are the things I love about Facebook:

It lets me be in touch with people I otherwise wouldn't know or see:

I have just recently begun to know DH's Texan cousins via Facebook, and it's been great. Otherwise, these are people I would not know. Other examples - blogging friends and HG friends (hi, you guys!) and far-away family members.

It's great for networking

Facebook has been a great way for me to get to know the birth community here in Phoenix and across the nation. It has been an invaluable resource.

It's great for research, learning, and encouragement

If I have an interest, there are two hundred Facebook groups that share that interest! I am currently involved in many Facebook groups that share information on childbirth, Christian parenting and womanhood, home education, and other topics. They are a great way to share current news, join conversations, and be encouraged. I have been so incredibly inspired by the Christian mothering groups of which I am a part, and I learn so much from the birth groups. It's been awesome.

It's great for sharing personal news

As a quick way to share family news, pictures, etc., and to keep up with people and what's going on in their lives, it's top-notch. In fact, it's rather hard to keep up with people if one does not use Facebook, as most info-sharing nowadays is done via Facebook.

It's a great way to further involvement in communities:

For communities that are already healthy and active, like the birth community here in the east valley or like my church, it's a great way to bolster already-healthy relationships.

Here are the things that I do not love about Facebook:

It is highly addictive

I find that I feel the mental "need" to check Facebook quite often, whether or not I ought to or need to. And even when I am not on Facebook, I find that I am constantly writing imaginary status updates according to whatever is happening. I don't like the feeling of being in bondage to it. (The same can be true of blogging, but it's even worse with Facebook.)

It steals my off-computer time 

Let's face it - it's easy to spend way too much time on Facebook that ought to be spent doing chores or spending time with my family. I am often guilty. And, as mentioned above, it can steal my mind even when I am involved with my family.

It steals my on-computer time

When I am on the computer, I have many things that I need to be doing - placing orders, documenting homeschool activities, looking up recipes, making lists and charts that we need for our school and our family, researching parenting and homemaking issues, reading blogs, answering email, etc. etc. etc. I also love to blog. But I will often get on the computer to do legitimate work and find later that I've forgotten the thing I wanted to do and ended up goofing on Facebook. Not good.

It embroils me in debates

Lately, I have made a semi-firm commitment to stay out of debates. While I love calm, civil, intellectual debates, 99% of Facebook arguments (and online arguments at large) do not fall into that category. They become emotionally charged wars in which people become inflammatory and intentionally hurtful. I can become depressed and upset when I get involved in these - and even when I don't, I sometimes become involved emotionally just from reading them.

This happens off of Facebook too, of course. This past weekend I read an article on a Christian women's blog that I otherwise really enjoy, which bothered me horribly. The moral of the article in question was, "Women who attempt to have input into their births are selfish control freaks who don't care about their babies." It really upset me. I wrote a brief response, and considered writing a longer blog article (I may yet do so), but the main point was that it stole my peace for several days. I was depressed, angry, and upset - over something that someone halfway across the country wrote and which was out of my control. I think that the issue is important, of course, but it isn't worth sacrificing my emotional peace (for several days) over it. This example was with blogging, of course, not Facebook, but it is the same thing on Facebook (usually magnified many times due to volume), and it affects me regardless of whether or not I actually get involved in the debates.

It can be depressing

Sometimes I'll get on Facebook for a quick check, and get off completely depressed by posts of people who choose to ridicule things that I stand for. My faith in God, my politics, my social conservatism, my family size, my parenting, my diet choices, whatever. I shouldn't take it personally, but when things like that come up in my news feed - "Christians are stupid!" or "People who have more than one child should be shot!" or "Conservatives are all idiots!" etc. etc. etc., it feels like a personal attack, which can be quite depressing.

It has content that I shouldn't see

I don't frequent sites that are vulgar, sexual, or profane.... but Facebook puts it right up in front of me based on what people choose to post.

It makes me vulnerable to negative persons

For the first time in my Facebook career, I am considering unfriending someone (no one who reads this blog or who would be known to readers of this blog), and that really bothers me. I don't like the idea of doing that to someone - I've never been unfriended, that I know of, and I don't want to do it to anyone else - but this person's constant stream of unkind remarks (on my religion, politics, family size, etc.), and her habit of sharing my links and then ridiculing them have me wondering if I should be exposing my life and my heart to this person. This is a definite hazard of Facebook.

Anyone have advice on that one?

It can steal my peace and joy

For all of the above reasons.

It fuels semi-friendships

I somehow am Facebook friends with a lot of people whom I don't know in real life or through any other venues like blogging or common interests (how did this happen?), yet I interact with them on a fairly regular basis - but we would never get together in real life or help each other during hard life-events. It seems of questionable wisdom to invest time in friendships that aren't leading anywhere.

It encourages me to neglect true personal contact 

Sometimes Facebook will feel like I'm in really good touch with my friends... but in truth, it's all (or mostly) surface. I need to be in one-on-one communication and contact. As a busy stay-at-home mom, I don't often have time for gatherings and meetings, so Facebook is a nice way to fill in the gaps or to bolster already existing friendships - but it does not let me develop the deeper friendships that I need, and it lulls me into neglecting the true friendships that I cherish with the people in my life.

My conclusion?

I want to use Facebook... but I don't want it to use me. I love to use it as a way to share news and to keep up, but I don't want to be in bondage to it, and I don't want to let it rob me of the deeper friendships I need to be developing with my real-life friends.

I plan to spend the rest of this week thinking about how to make that happen.

Anyone have any advice or input?

Homeschooling, The First Year: Books for Kindergarteners

One of the records I have recently begun keeping is a "good books" list, and I love it! I order books every week through our library, and I realized that I did not want to have to do the research looking for book titles and lists again every time we have a child in an age group. Thus, I have started my own record of good books, listed by age-appropriateness - preschool, kindergartener (age 4-6), early elementary, late elementary, junior high, and high school. I wish I'd started keeping this list years ago! 

While my lists are going to grow exponentially, I thought I'd share my kindergarten list with you all - it's missing a lot of books, but I'm working on it! It's an exciting project, and I'll post again later (probably in a year or so) with a complete list (and further on with my other lists).

Please note that age appropriateness is extremely approximate, and furthermore is based primarily (at this age) off of read-aloud level rather than reading-to-self level.

Good Books for Kindergarteners (age 4-6)

Henry & Mudge (Series)
Mr. Putter & Tabby (Series)
Clifford the Big Red Dog (Series)
Annie & Snowball (Series)
Strega Nona
Clarence and the Purple Horse
Mirette and Bellini
Curious George
Frog and Toad
Little Bear
Maple Hill Farm
Lyle Crocodile
Magic School Bus
 “I Can Read” books on the library catalogue or the internet
Mrs. Toggle
Aunt Eater
Berenstain Bears
Clifford the Big Red Dog
George and Martha
Little Critter
Amelia Bedelia
Richard Scarry books
Mercy Watson

Individual books
Nine for California
Armadilly Chili
A Pipkin of Pepper (& sequels)
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
Lost and Found
Harry in Trouble
The Island of the Skog
Granddaddy’s Place
The Gingerbread Man
The Gingerbread Cowboy
The Carrot Seed
Harold and the Purple Crayon
A Pocket for Corduroy
Just Me and My Dad (and others)
The Ugly Duckling
Stone Soup
There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon
The Little Engine That Could
Harry the Dirty Dog
The Biggest Bear
Caps for Sale
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (and sequels)
Mice at Bat
The Case of the Cat’s Meow
Wagon Wheels  (history, B)
The Mysterious Tadpole
A House in the Woods
The Story About Ping
Ask Mr. Bear
Millions of Cats
May I Bring a Friend?
Six-Dinner Sid
The Story of Little Babaji (Pancakes for Supper is another retelling of this story)
The Reluctant Dragon (history, B)
The Visit
The Velveteen Rabbit
When I Was Young in the Mountains
Saving Strawberry Farm (history)
The Long Way to a New Land, and sequels (history)

Cynthia Rylant
Leo Lionni
Virginia Burton
Arthur Howard, illustrator
Steven Kellog
Helen Cooper
Arnold Lobel
Inga Moore
Barbara Brenner

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Homeschooling, the First Year: Before Curriculum

(Go to the last article in this series)

Underlying the curriculum-choice frenzy, the debate over learning styles and teaching styles, the ridiculous amount of extracurricular choices we have available to us, and the wide array of tools and support groups and resources of all types, lies one unavoidable truth....

... The truth that regardless of which curriculum I choose, which support groups I join, which extracurriculars I sign up for, which teaching tools and tricks I use, it won't make any difference if my child won't obey me when I tell him that he needs to do his work.

And furthermore, since we have to live together 24-7 - and prefer to live in relative peace - the obedience that I require from my children must also be cheerful and prompt.

And that's the ugly truth.

Of course, it's not new truth. It's old news that the Bible has been teaching for centuries:
"Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord."  (Colossians 3:20)                                                                                                                              
When my children (or child, since the other two are too young) are obeying and are obeying respectfully, we have peace, joy in each other's company, and things work well. When there is disrespect or mocking tones, disobedience or obedience that is delayed, grudging, or accompanied by tantrums, our house is filled with strife, stress, anger, blaming, and raised voices of all types - and it takes a lot more work to get anything done at the school table.

It's that simple.

But oddly enough, children don't just obey automatically! (Fancy that!) They come well-equipped with everything that could possibly test a parent's patience - disobedience, tantrums, sulking, whining, begging, arguing, bargaining - everything that makes family life miserable. And as a parent - and furthermore, the parent who is most often with the children - it's my job to deal with this. It's my job to turn out decent human beings who have consideration for others, basic manners, the ability and willingness to help out, and the obedience to listen to my instructions and carry them out.

But though my job is simple and clear, it is not easy. Far from it. Parenting has been the hardest thing that I have ever attempted in my life, and the job I have done is far from stellar. I have so far to go - in my methods, my attitudes, my diligence and follow-up, my standards, my expectations - pretty much everything. This is a journey, and a long one, and it is the most challenging work that I have ever done.

Nevertheless, it is my job - as a mother, and especially so as a homeschool mother. We can't make headway with any curriculum if my children won't obey me - and we won't have any peace in the house either if our children are rude, disrespectful, and disobedient.

That's part of my new job - God give me grace and wisdom for the journey. I certainly need it.