Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What Is Charlotte Mason Education? I'm So Glad You Asked!

Wait, what was that? You didn't ask about Charlotte Mason Education? You don't want to hear all about the latest and greatest in CM methodologies?

Too bad! You're going to hear about it anyway!

Now that that's cleared up, let's sit back and get comfortable!

Getting Started

As y'all may or may not know, there are many different types of home education. I'll list some of them here for those of you who may not know the larger categories. In no particular order, home education styles include....

Textbook - Also known as "doing school at home," this method uses traditional textbooks, worksheets, reading comprehension questions, book work, seat work, etc.

Unit Studies - Tying all subjects into one particular topic. For example, one might do a unit study on "apples" or "Christopher Columbus," or any of an infinite variety of subjects - and every subject (math, spelling, science, history, etc.) would be tied to that subject. More commonly, parents will use unit studies for history and science, and leave other subjects to be studied independently.

Delight-Driven - The parent finds out what interests the child, and constructs lessons around those topics.

Classical (or Neo-Classical*) - Based on the Socratic method, using the three-phase "trivium" model of teaching different ages.

Unschooling - There are no formal lessons, but the parent encourages and provides all sorts of resources and opportunities for child-directed learning.

Charlotte Mason - Based on the teaching and philosophies of 20th century British educator Charlotte Mason - see below for details!

And the method that almost all of us use in the end....

Eclectic - A mix of all the above. Among home educators, there are very few purists who use only one teaching methodology - most people pick and choose. For example, our family currently uses the textbook approach for handwriting, math, and map skills, the Charlotte Mason and/or delight-driven method for literature, history, and science, and unschooling for vocabulary and physical education.

Read more about the different education styles here.

Now that you know the basics, let's talk about....

Charlotte Mason Education

When I first heard about the different types of home education, Charlotte Mason (CM) education was the only style that did (emphatically!) not appeal to me - primarily because it is the hardest to conceptualize and understand. Unlike the other styles, which can be clearly explained in one or two brief sentences, Charlotte Mason methods can take years to understand. It's not a quick and easy philosophy to understand. And in the beginning, I pretty much wrote Charlotte Mason off as confusing, discouraging, irrelevant, and completely uninteresting.

But in the past few years, my interest has been piqued again and again by various mentions of Charlotte Mason education methods. And I have discovered, to my astonishment, that many homeschooling ideas that have attracted me have, in fact, been Charlotte Mason based - such as notebooking and nature walks. In short, it seems to be fated that our family should get to know and love Charlotte Mason education, and I am now at the beginning of that journey.

I am not an expert on Charlotte Mason - I am at the most beginning stages of learning about this philosophy. Thus, I am not going to expound greatly upon Charlotte Mason - I am simply going to provide the basics, plus the resources that I am using to learn more.

So.... Who WAS Charlotte Mason?

Charlotte Mason was a British educator in the late 1800's and early 1900's. She started a system of British schools, as well as a teacher training school, based on her educational philosophies, and her ideas are now widespread among the home education community.

According to Ambleside Online (read the full FAQ article here):
"The Charlotte Mason method uses living books with an emphasis on quality rather than quantity, narration instead of comprehension exercises or composition, copywork for handwriting, spelling and grammar modeling, nature observation as the primary means of early science, and literature, poetry, art and music to give children's minds beautiful ideas to feed on."
That's a great definition! (Go and read the whole article.)

Charlotte Mason advocated for late-start education (at age six) and for vast amounts of outdoor time (the gold standard is four hours a day, though we only manage an hour or two) and nature study. She believed that children should be nourished and surrounded by large quantities of top-quality living books and other sources of beauty and information (through, for example, picture study and classical music), and that the processing of this information should take place through oral and written narration ("telling back") rather than using textbooks followed by comprehension questions.

I love Charlotte Mason's ideas, which were definitely ahead of her time (and ours, for that matter), and I am learning so much as I immerse myself in CM education.

Charlotte Mason Distinctives

The answer to "what defines a Charlotte Mason education" will differ by who you ask, of course, but here are the basic tenets of Charlotte Mason education according to "When Children Love to Learn" (a book that I am currently enjoying):

- Living Books - Real, living books instead of textbooks (whenever possible). Some of you may remember my article about this several months ago!

- Narration - This is "telling back" what was learned - orally in early years, or in written form in later years. This is basically the practice of notebooking!

- Reading and Literature - Lots and lots and lots of top-quality literature! Mmmm.

- Spelling and Composition - Learned through copywork, narration, dictation, and through reading living books.

- Poetry - At first, I was dreading this - but then I discovered that kids actually love good poetry! Now we love our daily poetry readings.

- Shakespeare - We haven't gotten here yet, but I know we will, and I can't wait!

- History - Again, from real and living books. Yum.

- Mathematics

- Nature Study and Notebooks - We are in the beginning stages.

- Science - In the early years, from nature study.

- Picture Study - We did this for the first time today! It was awesome!

- Music Appreciation

- Bible Instruction

- Foreign Languages  

- Physical Education

- Handcrafts - Charlotte Mason advocated "handicrafts" - as opposed to our typical "crafts" - projects of real use such as leathercraft, sewing, etc.

Books on Charlotte Mason Education

If you're interested in learning more about Charlotte Mason Education, the following three books are highly recommended in the CM community. I am reading the first, and hope to acquire the second two soon:

What to Know More? Join the Facebook Group!

I recently became a member of the Charlotte Mason Homeschoolers Facebook Group, which is an extremely active and vibrant internet community of home educators who use CM methods or want to learn more about CM methods. I highly recommend this group! Join us!

(There are also online forums and Yahoo! groups which you can find on the Ambleside website and other CM websites.)

Websites! Give Me Websites!

I have discovered two major Charlotte Mason websites. Both offer complete and FREE K-12 curriculum plans, and many people use them for their families:

Ambleside Online

Simply Charlotte Mason

Both of these websites contain a vast amount of information, and I am not anywhere close to completing my read-through of either site. Right now I am attempting to set my timer for 15 minutes a day of voracious reading, and I have the feeling that I will be reading for many months to come. Even if you do not end up using the curriculum plans, there is so much information on these two sites!


What About Other Websites?

There are many other Charlotte Mason websites and blogs, and I am just now beginning my collection. If you are a part of the Charlotte Mason Facebook group, you will get constant referrals to great websites. Sometime I may try to publish a list of Charlotte Mason blogs, but right now my collection is in its infancy. Here are just a few that I currently follow:

The Common Room

Higher Up and Further In  (This is also another free CM curriculum site!)

Childlight USA

Living Charlotte Mason in California

And there you have it! Comments, questions, things to throw? Fellow Charlotte Mason fans, anything to add? Feel free to share!

* For note on "Classical" v. "Neo-Classical" see Brandy's note in the comments section!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Newest Organist on the Block! {Warning: Major Cuteness!}

Our littlest guy displays his (future!) talent on the organ!

I was supposed to be playing something, but our guy decided to take the stage. He has definite delusions of grandeur!

We all love the organ, though it generally sounds a tad better than the above - but you can't beat the little guy for sheer cuteness!

Have a great evening, everyone!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Random Pictures!

Why? Because I need to get these posted before I forget about them!

Local field trip - the Arizona Science Center! - as well as the aftermath (some seriously tired kids!).

And another local field trip - to a reptile show! The 7yo got to hold one of the bigger snakes! He loved it!

A few birthday pictures from the 7yo's recent promotion (which we also use as our celebration of family birthdays en masse):

And a few blurry pictures of a baby in a box!

Have a great night, everyone!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Nature Walks! Or Not. Mostly Not.

One of my ongoing projects is an attempt to make nature walks a part of our home education curriculum (see this great article! - and this one too!). I love the idea, and I also love the outdoors and want to get our family outside as much as possible.

Getting the family outside, however, is the easy part. Leading successful nature walks is somewhat more difficult! Let's just say.... I have a lot to learn.

So far I have tried the scrapbook method (gathering objects to display on a notebooking page) rather than observing/drawing methods. Even that has been a rocky road, as our 7yo has very little interest in nature - his "nature collections" are mostly along the lines of discarded trash and scrap building materials! (The nature-type objects you'll see below are my doing.)

But it's a start, and I know I'll learn as we go along.

For your amusement, here are the results of our first three efforts. The writing is mine, at the 7yo's dictation. You may not be able to read the writing, but let's just say that it has precious little to do with nature! (Our 7yo runs more to Jedi narrations than to thoughts on the Great Outdoors.) At least he likes the hot glue gun we use to create our pages! (*Sigh*)

We'll get there, folks... we'll get there.

But it may take a while!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fourth of July Pictures!

Usually I remember holidays the day before... this one I remembered the morning of! Oh, crumbs! I was supposed to plan for this!

Thankfully, my forgetfulness was easily remedied, and we had a great day. Highlights included....

A Fruit Flag! (Strawberries, blueberries, marshmallows.) Yum. (You can make it healthier with bananas instead of marshmallows, but then you need to eat it within three seconds before it looks crummy.)

That's right, those are lessons in the background. Home education is never more than six inches away from me. 

Dinner was sticky-sweet drumsticks, baked beans, our fruit flag, and..... patriotic gelatin desserts! They were so fun to make!

How to make: Jello on the bottom, tilted while it jells. I used all-natural jello to avoid the Red 40, and an added bonus was the fact that because it was vegan, it chilled much faster than traditional jello! Then panna cotta on top, plus blueberries for topping. This is an adaptation and simplification of Martha Stewart's original recipe for Red, White, and Blue Parfaits (sorry, no time to make homemade currant gelatin from fresh currants).

We did our traditional reading of the Declaration of Independence (to see why, read this post), and then finished up with a water balloon fight.

I occasionally get a really good picture... this is one of them! Oh wait, I didn't take this picture - DH did. And that's why it turned out well! 

Afterwards we went in to watch snippets of the Capitol Fourth show... but, come to think of it, I believe we ran out of time for that this year. Instead, we headed outside for fireworks (the local show is just a few blocks from our house) and then our own sparklers.

We had a great - and very, very, very busy - Fourth of July! How did you all celebrate?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My New Favorite Birth Video!

I have watched this video twice... and cried both times! This gorgeous and heart-touching birth video (click here to see full-size) is a true keeper, and embodies everything that is beautiful and holy and precious about childbirth. Please take a few minutes to watch (and share!) - I know you'll love it as much as I did!

This video is very G-rated - no nudity at all.

 Enjoy! Congratulations to this sweet family!

An Awesome Book.... For Free!

This week I became aware of a soon-to-be-published book, "Three Decades of Fertility." It looks absolutely awesome, and I can't wait to read it! Here is the trailer:

I am a long-time blog reader of many of the authors, and I am sure that this is going to be a great book.

And..... if you would like to use your blog to review this book, you can get a virtual copy (E-book or PDF) for free here

Much as I'm drooling over this book, I probably won't take advantage of the offer, simply because I have found e-copies of books impossible to finish. Not having (or wanting) an e-reader (or whatever those things are called!), it requires massive amounts of time sitting at the computer - time that I don't have right now, as all of my reading is done while nursing (or while brushing my teeth!). I've tried to read e-books on the computer before and found them impossible.

However, for you Nook/Kindle/etc. people out there, this is an awesome opportunity! Please let me know if you decide to take them up on the offer, and how you like it! Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Best Parenting Book You Will Ever Read! (Promise!)

That's quite a promise, isn't it? The best parenting book you will ever read. We'd all click to buy that book!

If I were to recommend a parenting book, it would go like this:

#1 - The Bible. It truly lays the groundwork for godly parenting, and I am attempting (however imperfectly) to follow its precepts.

And, as a side note, there is nothing in the world more annoying than a parenting book which claims to be "Christian" and then goes on to ignore, contradict, or belittle everything that the Bible has to say about parenting. Just sayin'.

#2 - Raising Godly Tomatoes. Love this book. It is biblical, it is practical, it comes from a woman with vast experience (that is, ten children!), and it is simply awesome!

Another humorous side note. Have you ever read of one of those parenting books which was obviously written by someone who had only easy-going children? Those crack me up. I read one book which gave an example of child-teaching something like this:

Mommy: "Johnny, when you said such-and-such, you hurt your sister's feelings."
Johnny: *Weeps copious tears of repentance and never says such-and-such again*

Um, yeah. I'll stick with the parenting books written by parents who have experience dealing with challenging children.

But I digress.

Back to the "Best Parenting Book You Will Ever Read." Well, I can't quite come through on that promise. Because the "book" I'm going to tell you about isn't exactly a... book.

It is this:

The best parenting "book" you will ever "read" is.... spending time around good, experienced parents. 

That's it. Not reading the newest books by PhD experts, or going to mommies' groups, or any of that. Simply spending time around parents who are doing a good job parenting their children, and learning from them.

When I look back at my parenting career, I can easily see that the times that I have made the most progress in my parenting skills have been from that very thing - being around experienced moms, watching how they interact successfully with their children (loving them, spending time with them, correcting them, disciplining them, discipling them), and then making those good habits my own as I imitate them. Those are the positive changes in my parenting that have had the most lasting and most memorable impact.

Books - not nearly so much. Usually, when I read something in a book, I think, "I should do that!" and then make a few sporadic efforts, only to forget it until I read the book again and think, "Oh yeah, I meant to do that."

A few months ago, I spent just a few minutes with a very experienced, wonderful mom - and in those few minutes, I watched at least three or four specific examples of awesome parenting that were immediately tucked into my mind for future reference. And that same thing has happened to me many times. Learning from other (good) parents is simply the way to go.

And when you think about it, the main biblical model for teaching and training the next generation is through one-on-one discipleship. Jesus spent three years doing one-on-one discipleship with his twelve disciples. And when Paul is writing instructions to Titus, he writes:

"[Older women] are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children." (Titus 2:3b-4a)

Not "Younger women should go and read lots and lots of parenting books to learn how to take care of their children" but "Learn from the older women who have done this all before." Each generation learns from those who have gone before.

I think that the absence of this precept is what often plagues us younger and more inexperienced moms. We don't automatically get this type of discipleship like former generations did. Some older women don't have much to teach, because they abnegated their child-raising responsibilities. And some women don't pass on the riches of their experience because they simply do not make themselves available to disciple the next generation of young mothers.

Older mothers, never think that you are not needed because your children are up-and-out. We younger moms need you desperately. If you do nothing but keep your home, help with your grandchildren, and minister to younger moms within your church, we younger moms will arise and call you blessed. You are greatly needed. 

Some young mothers find themselves isolated from older mothers due both of those reasons, and also to geographic isolation (lots of job-related moves, etc.). And all of those factors result in young women who don't receive the discipling that they need from the older generation of experienced mothers.

What happens next?

What happens next is that we younger mothers turn to unreliable sources - either the newest pop-culture parenting books (and we are so vulnerable to all of the nonsense they turn out) or our mommies' groups, where we are receiving the counsel of women just as inexperienced as ourselves (and often women who are greatly misled by the latest disastrous parenting fads). Neither produces the true discipleship that we need.

With all of that in mind, I would simply say...

Older (and more-experienced) mothers, make yourselves available to the next generation. We need your counsel and wisdom and advice so very much. Be willing to spend time with younger moms who can benefit from your experience.

And younger moms (such as myself), take the time to find those older mothers - either the "graduated" moms who have finished their parenting journey and are willing to offer counsel and support, or moms who are simply further down the parenting road and are doing a good job of it.

That is truly the best parenting book you will ever read. I promise. 

Whoever said that parenting these kidlets wasn't a hardcore full-time job was, frankly, insane. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Fun and Easy Craft for the Summer!

This week's homeschool craft comes to our family courtesy of Jennifer over at Beauty from Ashes... Pool Noodle Painting!

The process is oh-so-simply - just slice up a pool noodle, then use scissors or a sharp knife to make shapes, dip in paint, and have fun!

As usual, the "I hate crafts" boy had to be gently "persuaded" into doing this craft (i.e. "Sit down and do this craft before I hang you up by your fingernails, child!"), but he ended up having fun - and so did I! (I enjoy our art projects much more than he does!)

Here are some of the results....

The wonderful mess we made!

The 7yo's productions:

And mine!

Thanks for the idea, Jennifer!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Taking the 20-Minutes-a-Day Challenge!

Last year, Heather at Cultivated Lives started the "Daily Outdoors Challenge" - the challenge to spend at least 20 minutes per day outside having fun as a family. Though we didn't do the challenge officially last year, it did make me much more mindful of getting outside on purpose - especially during the summer months, when my instinct is to go inside, lock the doors, and refuse to come out till at least Thanksgiving.

This year, we're taking the challenge officially!

Things like this are such an incentive for me. I really need the dangling carrot to motivate myself, and having a reminder like this hanging up in our hallway is a great motivator. Even when I don't want to get outside, the hanging threat of having to start back at "0 days running" is enough to get me to head out the door with the children - and we always end up having a wonderful time.

The best thing, of course, is that "20 minutes" almost always morphs into at least an hour or more of outside time, during which we get lots of exercise, have adventures, build memories - and, of course, keep all messes outside and where I don't have to clean them up!

Join us this summer!

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Vision of Burnout, And What Came of It

This past summer while we were visiting family in California, I met a woman who really, truly scared me. And that doesn't happen that often!

She wasn't a rambling psychotic, borderline insane, or attacking innocent bystanders with sharp objects. Actually, she was a busy homeschooling mama with a fine family of boys. Nothing too scary there.

But when I met this woman, my immediate and overwhelming first impression (later confirmed by my husband) was as follows: This is a woman who is about to go under. 

This was a woman who was at the brink of not being able to take it any longer - whatever "it" was. Homeschooling, her marriage, her kids, her home, a combination of all of the above - my impression was that she was a woman who was barely treading water and who, if she continued in the way she was going, was not going to make it.

What "going under" would look like for that woman is an unknown - divorce, depression, despair, giving up on home education, etc. - but whatever it was, she was near it.

Meeting this woman (and I did not have a chance to get to know her well) was frightening in two ways: Firstly, I was scared for her, and secondly, I was scared for myself - because I could easily be this woman in a few years if I don't do what's necessary to take care of myself.

Being a mother and homemaker is hard work. Really, really, really hard work. And when one adds home education into the mix, it easily doubles the workload, especially with a large family. (Or even without one - I often times feel like pulling my hair out and I have only one student. Argh.) It's easy to let myself get ragged - either physically or emotionally - simply because there is so much to do. And no matter how hard I work, I will never finish. Pursuing those unattainable goals can lead a homeschooling mother into very unhealthy places as she neglects her health and well-being trying to get it all done.

The take-away lesson from all of that is simply this: I need to take care of myself. I need to do whatever is necessary to make sure that I have the health, energy, mental peace, and situational tools to continue to perform well on the job. If I let myself get into a state in which I am depressed, depleted of energy and health, and unable to perform well in my duties, I'm not doing anyone a favor. Making sure that I take care of myself needs to be a priority.

(I should say that I am not preaching the "me time" gospel in the way that it has often been abused in years of late - that is, as an excuse for self-indulgence and selfishness at the expense of one's family. I am advocating only for balance!)

What does this mean for me? In brainstorming the subject, here are some of the things that I need to keep myself energetic and emotionally stable:

Good Food, Water & Supplements - As a mama, it's too easy to skimp in this area and just eat "on the run" with less than adequate food sources. Thankfully, the diet that I am on mostly prevents this, as most junk foods are on the verboten list. But I do need to make sure that I'm eating well, drinking enough water, and taking the supplements that I need for energy and vitality.

Exercise - Okay, I'm totally blowing it on this one. I haven't exercised in months. Something to work on, for sure!

Time Outside - Thankfully our "20 minutes a day" challenge is helping with this, but I find that time outside is really necessary for mental peace.

A Clean House - My house won't be as clean as it used to be until all of our kids are out of the house... but my mental well-being takes a nose-dive when the house dips into the cluttered and grungy mode. I immediately (and unavoidably) become irritable, anxious, and weepy when that happens - so for my own mental health, I need to maintain a basic level of cleanliness and order in the home.

Discipline - If there's something that can send our entire home into a nose-dive, it's bad attitudes or lack of obedience on the part of the kidlets. Issues along these lines are largely what have made this past week an extremely trying one. I almost never reach the place where I want to be with this issue, but doing my best (and keeping it in constant prayer) does produce big improvements.

Prayer - Until I had kids, I didn't realize how essential my prayer and Bible time was. If I skip it - I pay through the nose.

Getting Up Early - I find that I need a minimum of one hour alone in the morning before the children get up in order to get ready, pray, and start my morning routines. If I sleep in - again, I pay.

Routines - Routines for me, routines for lessons, routines for the kids - all of them pay huge dividends, and the lack of them causes or perpetuates problems.

Getting to Bed at a Decent Hour - This is another huge area of current failure, and one that I am working on.

Minimizing Computer Goof Time - Productive computer time (i.e. when I set a timer and work at a specific task, such as reading articles or answering email) is very positive, but random "quick email checks" (which morph into Facebook checks, and blog checks, and... oh wait, where did the last half-hour go?) tend to be destructive in many ways. I'm working to minimize goof time!

Spending Time on Hobbies - Spending just a tiny amount of time on my personal hobby (blogging!) is very productive and energizing. I need to be more regular about building blogging time into my days.

Daily Quiet Time - Our one-hour afternoon break, during which time I rest, nap, and regroup mentally for the rest of the day. Without this time, I'm pretty much a mess.

If I make it through this journey, it will be solely by the grace of God. But I want to do all that I can to maintain and promote my own health and well-being, rather than hindering God's work in my life by my own actions.

What other essentials do you find necessary for maintaining your personal well-being? I'd love to hear about them!

Monday, July 8, 2013

That Post You've Been Anticipating Since.... Sometime! (Curriculum Roundup 2013-2014)

An amazing thing happened last week... I read a blogging friend's curriculum round up and I didn't start hyperventilating. Isn't that great? I'm making progress!

In all seriousness - I love reading curriculum plans by home educating mamas, but they can (especially for newbies like me) contribute to that wonderful phenomenon known as Total and Complete Curriculum Overload, a condition from which I am only now beginning to recover.

It is with trepidation, therefore, that I venture to offer my own 2013-2014 curriculum roundup. While I love to share, I don't want to cause the same nervous panic in other beginning home educators. With that in mind, please remember two things:

(1) Especially due to the length of this post, I may come across as knowing what I'm doing. I don't. I am very much a beginner, so do not take me too seriously! Come back in another ten or fifteen years, and I might have some inkling of the business by then.

(2) Remember that what works for one family will not work for another. Just because I, or another mom, or a super-veteran-homeschooler mom (also known as an Institutional Pillar of Greatness) uses activity, curriculum, or schedule X, does not mean it will work for your family! Do NOT succumb to the guilt of "she does it, therefore I should!" Not true. 

With that in mind, let's get started!

A few months ago, I actually published my early elementary plan (K-3), which you can see here. That plan, of course, remained completely unchanged after this past month's home education convention, when I had the opportunity to spend hours upon hours perusing curriculum vendors. I would, needless to say, never waver in my choices!

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Um... yeah. Pretty much everything on it has changed. Ah, the life of an American home educator - decisions, decisions! 

I'll post the sheets so you can see the changes I've made, but here it is spelled out. As a reminder, we have only one student right now (first grade) - though I am doing my best to work in a fashion that prepares for multi-level teaching and independent work when possible.

Also, as I write this out, you'll notice some redundancy - that is for my clarity of mind, not because we're repeating subjects over and over.

One last note: The further I get into home education, the more I am drawn to the Charlotte Mason model. More on that (hopefully) at a later date, but for now, those of you who are acquainted with CM methods will recognize various CM-themes running through this plan.


Early Elementary, Page 1 {Click to enlarge}
Early Elementary, Page 2 {Click to enlarge}

Early Elementary, Page 3 {Click to enlarge}


Family Time - This is an ever-evolving time, starting our mornings, that includes Bible reading, Bible memory, catechism, house rules, personal safety information, prayer, weather/calendar, and poetry readings. It takes less than half an hour - maybe about 20 minutes, depending on how much trouble the toddler-in-residence is causing!

Bible - One chapter read from a selected Bible book, and one chapter from Proverbs.

I know there are lots of great Bible curricula out there - but we're just not using them. I find that reading the Bible and answering the 7yo's questions does quite well for us. Additionally, I never realized how full of history and culture the Bible really is! For example, yesterday we discussed what "reclining at table" meant and how people reclined on couches to eat during Roman days. We're planning our own Roman dinner soon!

We also do a bit more of the same - by Daddy, this time! - during evening devotions.

Bible Memory - One verse per week.

Catechism - Last year we used the Small Children's Catechism (love this, and it's super-easy for young kids!); this year we are using the Catechism for Young Children, though it's a bit longer and more challenging, to match the workbook we're using during evening devotions.

Reading Skills (Phonics) - We will continue using Rocket Phonics (which is a K-2 program), as well as some easy readers (Puppy Mudge, Frog & Toad, etc.) plus some Pathways Readers that a sweet woman gave me at a recent used-curriculum sale.

Math - We will continue to use Singapore Math.

In two years (3rd grade), I will consider whether to stick with Singapore or move to Teaching Textbooks - not because I have anything against Singapore, but simply because there is something about Teaching Textbooks that is just drool-at-first-sight. We'll see. (Teaching Textbooks starts in third grade.)

Language Arts - Our 1st-grader will gets lots of informal language arts through reading, handwriting, etc., but we will not begin formal language arts until third grade. For now, we'll be sticking with the Charlotte Mason recommendation to use copywork for younger children (free sources here and here to make your own!), and the occasional notebooking (composition) page.

My plans for future language arts are rather sketchy, but two programs that I am considering for the future are Learning Language Arts Through Literature and English for the Thoughtful Child.

Handwriting - We are sticking with Handwriting Without Tears, as well as copywork.

Composition/Narration/Notebooking - **Under Construction, Please Check Back Soon!** (In all seriousness... still researching this subject, but we'll stick mainly with copywork.)

History/Geography - We'll keep this mainly informal, with lots and lots and lots of living books from the half-million book lists I use (mmm.... book lists!). I have purchased (and love!) a copy of Galloping the Globe and plan to use this in future years - we may start doing this slowly and informally (maybe a country per month, or even more slowly).

Literature - Again, informal with lots and lots of living books!

Poetry - It blew me away when I discovered last year that kids actually enjoy poetry (who knew?), and it is now a regular part of our morning Family Time.

Science - Informal, with lots and lots of living books. I am also in process of gathering a list of science topics appropriate for lower elementary, so that we can slowly work through them using the public library. Additionally, nature study (see below), one science activity/experiment per week, and a weekly Project Night with Daddy (during which they build something or fix something!).

Nature Study - A goal of a minimum 20 minutes per day outside, plus weekly nature walks and a nature notebook.

Map Skills - A friend told me that her boys' favorite part of lessons was there Map Skills books! I forgot all about that until this past convention, when I happened to see a section of Map Skills books and thought, "Oh yeah! I meant to do that!" I picked out Maps Book A by Modern Curriculum Press, and we love it. It's super-simple, and there's only one lesson per week. A very gentle introduction to maps! It's a series, so I'll be able to buy one book per year from here on out.

Typing - Not yet (soon!).

Spanish - Good question. Not yet formally, but I'm trying to speak more Spanish around the house to try a bit of immersion.

Latin - No, it's not a living language, but it is one of the best ways to learn grammar! We hope to start Latin in third grade.

Art - Drawings to go with copywork, one craft per week, and - hopefully! - picture studies. The last of those is a skill which I need to acquire and hope to begin soon.

Music - Nothing formal yet, but plenty of good music playing around the house!

I'm hoping for piano lessons in a few years... but I'm also hoping that we will be able to afford having a teacher who is not me.

Hymn Study - We sing hymns during evening devotions, but for fun we also added Year #1 of the Simply Charlotte Mason hymn cycle to our rotation.

Character - Nothing formal, but we may use Rick & Marilyn Boyer's Character Trails (because it was loaned to us!). Also, reading the book of Proverbs every day is definitely a stand-alone character education in itself!

Field Trips - A standard of one family field trip and one formal field trip per week. As of this week (week #5 in the school year), we have already added up something like fifteen field trips!

Extracurriculars - We do not have any extracurriculars slated for the coming year - however, we're busy enough (read: exhausted enough!) without them, especially with all of the play dates and park days and field trips that we do with our fellowship groups - plus library LEGO days. But we're thinking about options for the future.

For myself, I am also being "home educated" - in the art and science of home education! This includes the constant reading of many-many-many home education books, magazines, blogs, and articles - and it never stops. When I first began, I assumed that home education meant "Hop onto a few websites, pick a curriculum, order, and do it with your child." HA! I now know that I could spend the rest of my life doing nothing but reading on home education, and would hardly scratch the surface - but I do my best!


Did I miss anything?

Please feel free to ask questions or make suggestions - that last gentle suggestion is for YOU, O Institutional Pillars of Homeschooling Greatness who may be reading!

I can't wait to hear what curriculum choices you all are making for the coming year! Leave me your links so I can check them out!

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Wife of Noble Character, Who Can Find?

... Her price is far above rubies! (Proverbs 31:10)

Isn't that a lovely verse? And I want to let you all know about a wonderful magazine that I receive, Above Rubies - a magazine based on that very verse.

Above Rubies is a magazine for Christian women. It focuses on biblical womanhood and motherhood, childbearing, family life, faith, and all sorts of things woman-wise. I have received three or four issues, and they have all been simply wonderful. The magazine is a big encouragement and I hope to receive it for many years.

And the price? There isn't one! Above Rubies is published for free. Though they gladly receive donations to help with their ministry, there is no fee to receive the magazine. I am taking advantage of this free price right now, as we still have an income of zero, but in the future we plan to donate to their wonderful ministry.

You can also find a free online newsletter and a Facebook group at the above website, both of which are awesome - as well as a Facebook group specifically for men.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Summer Nights!

This past year or so, I have been on a quest - a quest to find contentment in the desert! It's been so much fun.

You see, I simply don't do desert heat well. Or the constant sun. I'm a coolness-clouds-wind-rain kind o' woman. But God has placed me here, and I'm on a mission to quell the complaining spirit and rejoice in the blessings of being placed in the Phoenix valley.

I've already written about some blessings of living in the desert. And now, as the heat moves up-up-up, I am focusing on the blessings and fun of a Phoenix summer! (Bet you didn't know there was anything fun about a Phoenix summer!)

One of the best parts of living in the desert during the summer is the blessing of summer evenings. After the sun goes down and the heat breaks (it even sometimes drops below 100F!), it can be lovely outside - especially when one adds water play into the mix!

As part of the 20 minutes a day challenge, we are doing our best to get outside every day - and of course, in summer, that means post-sundown pre-darkness times. We're really enjoying our times in the summer evenings.

What are we doing?

Playing - Just running around and having fun, complete with lots of dirt, gun battles and sword fights!

That's right, holding a toddler in one arm and battling valiantly with the other! Motherhood is multitasking! 

Water play! - Sprinklers, hoses, buckets and cups - you name it.

Yard work! - We're usually a bit delinquent on keeping up with the yard work, but being outside in the evenings reminds me of what needs to be done, which is wonderful! This evening I scrubbed down a mattress, swept the patio, and hung our new hummingbird feeder. Hurray for evening productivity!

Yes, folks, it's time to get crepuscular. Enjoy your summer evenings!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Update on Us! (Plus Anniversary Photos!)

While I procrastinate on writing up our 2013-2014 curriculum choices (prepare yourself - it's going to be long!), I thought I'd post a quick update on our family!

So... how are things around here?

Absolutely crazy!

But I've been saying that since our first baby was conceived in May of 2005, so perhaps it's time I just adjusted to the craziness and moved on. My new motto: "Crazy as a way of life."

And now, for some updates!

* We are now almost five weeks into the 2013-2014 school year! Wow, it's flown by! I am really enjoying our work-during-summer school year schedule, and I hope to continue that. It really keeps us from having nothing to do during the summer, and our vacation times will hopefully be taken during the cooler months of spring and fall (and at Christmas!).

I'm looking forward to posting our curriculum choices for this year - hopefully I'll have that posted soon!

It's not really lesson time unless we have our nerf guns with us. 

* One experience that we have (happily) not had to deal with in our ten years of marriage is the experience of losing a pet. However, that experience is - unless we miss our guess - thundering toward us at a rapid pace, and I'm not looking forward to it - especially if it includes the decision of whether or not to put an ailing pet down. Please pray for our family!

* We finally got out to celebrate our anniversary with our new tradition of anniversary milkshakes! Hurray! We had a great time and also learned two important lessons: (1) The kids need to have a proper dinner BEFORE we let them fill up on junk food if we don't want to end up with sick kids, and (2) Kids don't need their own milkshakes individually - especially very expensive milkshakes! Next time they're sharing!

Joe's Farm Grill - one of our favorite places to visit. 

Feeding the babies!

Gleefully claiming everyone's cherries for himself (which was convenient, as no one else wanted them!). 
* I'm starting to suspect that there may be a plot abroad - by certain unnamed family members - to drive me insane by constant mess-making. I won't publish the details here, because (1) I don't want anyone gagging at the computer, and (2) this is the internet, after all, but let's just say... I'm really getting into the down and dirty of mess clean-up. *Gag*. Be thankful, everyone, that you're not around here right now if you're squeamish about messes!

Believe it or not, this one is NOT one of the primary mess-making culprits right now. He's still in the minor leagues comparatively. 
* And one final note... I am giving serious consideration to changing the name of this blog! Wouldn't that be fun?

I originally chose "The Whining Puker" because (1) it was funny (at least I thought so!), and (2) I love British pub-type names ("The Duck and Dragon," "The Running Dog," etc.). At the beginning, this was purely a hyperemesis blog - a place for me to process my experience with HG and to compile and make public all of the research that I was doing in the area of HG treatment and prevention. While HG is still a big part of this blog, it is no longer the main focus. Nowadays, this blog covers everything - our family life, Christian living, home education, health issues - you name it! I am thus considering changing the blog name to make it more personal rather than issue-based.

I already have a new name in mind, but I want to keep it in thought and prayer for quite a while before taking the dive - it's a big step!

And now, everyone... I am off to do all that I should be doing right now! (Namely, chores and housework - as always!)

Have a wonderful night, everyone!